Answering emails about rules and procedure whether you are running or starting to run four square games for people of all ages. Just take a moment and write him a letter and he'll try to help you out.

How big is a standard four square court?

  • Posted on: 26 February 2014
  • By: sean

A lot of people from a lot of different industries are looking to us to answer questions about the standards of this playground game. Somehow we have become the official source for rules clarifications, managing behavior, and even consulting about world records. This week we're addressing a couple of questions about the size of a four square court. I will answer your questions in the order they were received...

Dear Sean, I am the technical writer for the American Sports Builders Association and we are updating our book, Indoor Sports Facilities: A Construction and Maintenance Manual. Our members are increasingly telling us they are being asked to add FourSquare lines to gymnasiums and playgrounds. I am wondering if we can get... an official diagram for the game so that our members can make sure they are lining facilities correctly? Thanks, Mary S. 2/23/2014

Mary, it's flattering that you are looking to us to provide standardization. I would love nothing more than to have official guidelines for this game published somewhere that facilitates the construction of more four square courts.

Here is our official diagram straight from our rules page. The court is a total of 16 feet wide and each square is 8 feet wide, all the lines are one inch. If we want to get technical, the total width includes the width of the lines themselves.

Our group plays with teens and adults and we use a court size that is appropriate for their skill level. We have also played with young children and found that sometimes our court is too big for them.

I have suggested in the past that a clever playground designer could make one court that has a large and small set of lines. Perhaps the 16' court is painted in blue and the 10' court is painted in red and they both have the same center point. Then players (or teachers) could decide on their own what size court was best.

When you put together your listing for your publication, Mary, please send us the details so we can circulate it!

Dear Sean, What would be a standard width of the boundary lines for playing square four. I know the length. Just want to know if there is a required width of the tape being used. Thank you. Thanks, Mark A 1/15/2014

Hi Mark. We decided a long time ago that wide lines take away valuable playground space. For that reason, we chose 1 inch as our standard for line width. That means in a pinch we can put up a make shift court with 1 inch wide masking tape. You can often buy permanent court lining designed for asphalt that comes in 1 inch widths.

Dear Sean, I am a promoter from LA who has just moved to Louisville, KY (yes, don't ask why...business) but we are looking to put together a road tour called the unextreme games next year. We've been meeting with various cities and colleges and they like our ideas. The games are basically all the sports we were told to stop playing in 6th grade. A primary one will be dodgeball. Per this, how close can a court be to the next and how do you handle things when everyone starts playing and balls are flying everywhere? Thanks, Robert P. 11/18/2013

Now, this is a game for kids that is also played by adults. For this reason, you have to judge your target age group's ability to get themselves hurt. My rule of thumb is ten feet between the outside edges of two courts. That's a 5 foot border around each one, enough for one person to leap outside of the border and fall onto their face without being trampled. Some kids might want more room, depending on how "aggressive" they are playing.

There, let's hope this post is useful for all you guys making courts out there. Also, please take a moment to stick your new courts on our court map!

Section: 

Can I Hit the Ball in the Air?

  • Posted on: 29 October 2013
  • By: sean

Dear Sean,

If the ball enters a square on the fly, and the player hits the ball in their own square before it goes to another square, is the player who hit the ball out? -Jody 10/25/2013

If a ball bounces in a player A's square and player A doesn't hit the ball, then bounces in player B's square, is player A out for not hitting the ball? -Kimberly 9/24/2013

I thought "air hits" (playing the ball before it bounces in your square) was illegal? -Arthur 8/27/2013

Is a player allowed to touch the ball before the ball bounces in their square? -Cody 7/25/2013

and so on...

We literally get this question once a month despite our rules stating the answer to this question quite clearly. The answer is simple. It matters who or what touched the ball last.

Once the ball hits a square, ONLY the owner of that square may touch the ball next. It hits her square, it is her ball. If she fails to hit it, she is out. If she hits it out of bounds, she is out. If someone else hits it before she does, that is called "poaching" and the other person is out.

Once a player hits a ball, ANYONE can hit it before it touches down in a square again. It can ricochet off players countless times without hitting the ground and it's still good. Once the ball drops in a square again, though, only one person can touch it next.

Do you see the parallel construction above? If the ball was: Touched by a square then it's off limits; Touched by a player then it's fair game.

Oh, and to clear it up. You don't have to stand in your own square all the time. You can stand and run anywhere you want. Just don't leave your square unprotected - someone will get the jump on you.

I hope this can finally answered your poaching and possession question(s) and you can get back to playing games!

Section: 

Quick Chat with Guinness Book of World Records

  • Posted on: 6 January 2012
  • By: sean

A couple of groups of college kids had attempted, set and broke each others world records for the longest marathon game of four square. I first heard about a college in Newfoundland, then a group in Ohio, than another and another.

Each group was composed of a small group of players and a single court. They played long and hard to earn their records and probably felt great about them as they were set. It's a pretty accessible record attempt no matter how you look at it. It's not like you have to grown your fingernails for 25 years or learn how to eat airplanes. You just need endurance and stamina and a love of the game.

This is why I was surprised to get a call from the Guinness Book of World Records when they needed to ask me about the spirit of the game. They mentioned that a group out there had attempted to set a marathon four square game record in which there was one court and 50 people involved.

We talked a little bit about how the Four Square World Championships work in their final rounds, and specifically they wanted to know how many competitors there were at this time of the competition. When determining the title for "world champion" we generally have 8 to 10 players involved in the match. I think this is a great number of people because nearly half of the competitors are actively playing while the other half have about a minute to rest before their turn comes up. I also believe this is a great number to have both a consistent presence by any one player on the court yet still change up the combination of players so that the strengths and weaknesses represented on the court are different each time. All in all, we have a great model for naming a champion and I believe that Guinness learned a lot from us.

In my opinion, I think that getting fifty people together to hold a playground game marathon would be tons of fun and everyone would enjoy it. But I don't believe that it shows a real marathon sporting event spirit. Sure, you could keep a game going forever if you have enough people to cycle in but it doesn't necessarily demonstrate the endurance and stamina of a group of game players. If I were in charge of judging world records for four square then I would give more credit to the groups that had a high percent of it's players moving throughout the whole event.

The good thing is that I don't judge records. It is very gratifying to get lifeline call from Guinness to help judge these things and they did mention that our group seems to be well known for aggregating the rules of this game into a concise resource. We've become experts on this fun childhood playground game - and that feels great.

For our next trick? How about the 2020 Olympics?

Section: 

Don't Underestimate Me!

  • Posted on: 14 November 2011
  • By: sean

Dear Sean, I really love 4square! I'm 11 years old but don't under estimate me. I'm really good at 4-square. On the first day of school I made my mark. And now everyone is like Whatch out for Katherine. Is it okay if it's not just in bosten because I live in Columbus, OH and Bosten is really faraway. But that's probably asking too much but I really wish I could join. Thanks, Katherine

Kat, it is obvious to me that your skills are fierce. You're authorized to mop the court with people's faces, even if it isn't in Boston. Let us know how it goes. - Sean

Since I Taugh my Grandkids to Play...

  • Posted on: 14 November 2011
  • By: sean

Dear Sean,

If the ball is coming straight at you in the air and it has not yet bounced in your square, is it legal to allow the ball to bounce off your body or hands into your own square once before hitting it into another person's square? Also, are you allowed to cross over the inside lines and go into another person's square in pursuit of a play or must you remain in your own square? It would appear by watching the videos of championships that anyone can be outside the outside lines near their square but I am wondering about the inside lines because of interfering with another's play. Is there a regulation size to the court? One last thing, does the ball have to bounce in a square once or can you hit it in the air into someone else's square?

I remember playing these rules years ago when I learned four square but haven't seen it specifically addressed on any of the sites I've checked. Since I taught my grandkids how to play and we have heated four square matches at our family get-togethers, I really wanted to see if there are any "official" rules. One site suggests that you can pretty much make up your own rules and the person in the serving square has the option to change the rules during his time in the square but this sounds confusing to me considering how fast the positions change.

Thanks for your help
Jean

Listen, Jean, our rules are about as official as they get. This website has gone a long way to creating a standard and that is nothing to sneeze at, but it's still a kid's game and it's open to interpretation when you play at home.

Our rules page covers the standard court size we set for our league and lots of other people have adopted it. It's a good size for adults, but you might choose to do something smaller for little kids.

I hear the question about hitting the ball "in the air" a lot. This one is covered by the possession section of our rules. The skinny is that if the ball has been hit by another player then other players don't have to wait for it to land before they hit it next. However, if anyone does hit it that way, they had better be sure that the ball is hit into another player's square or else they are out. In fact, anyone who hits a ball out of the air had better hit it correctly, like, with their hands, into a square, not onto an inside line, not out of bounds, etc. Once you hit it, you own it.

Next, there are no rules on where you can or cannot stand during the game. But we find that it is foolish to leave your square unprotected. If you find people are aggressively interfering with another person's play then you could make up your own rules about it.

I hope that covers what you needed to know. Good luck at your next family outing, and maybe we'll see you guys at the World Champs in Feb.

Does the ball have to bounce in your square before you hit it?

  • Posted on: 7 April 2011
  • By: sean

Dear Sean
I am sure you have heard this one before. I just started playing again recently with my children and the game brings me back to my childhood. What I have noticed is that there are a lot of new variations/rules that have come out from the newer generations. I don't really care about those too much as I have tried to keep "old school" rules in effect at home. With that being said, I do have 2 questions about 4 square that I am not sure on and my children and I disagree on. Hopefully, you can help.

Here goes:

  1. When a ball is hit to you, does it have to bounce in your square before you return it or can you hit it in air to another square?
  2. This is in regards to the "inside-out" rule, I understand that if you hit the ball and it hits the inside line that connects your square to the person you are hitting it to but what if you hit the ball and it lands on the line between two other players and not one of your own? Is that person still out or does play just continue

Thanks, Rob.

Hi Rob,

I have been getting a lot of questions like these lately, so I finally published the updated rule language I had been meaning to get to (its our off-season right now).

Check them out here:
http://squarefour.org/rules

The skinny is here:

  1. You can hit it in the air, but once it hits the floor only one person can hit it next.
  2. All inside lines are out, not just the ones bordering your square. It's your job to hit it right, not let two other people argue about whose square the ball was more inside - catch my drift?

The idea is to keep the rules as clear as possible and reduce as much confusion as possible. It's good for kids to spend time playing the game rather then arguing about the rules - and less headaches for the parents.

Section: 

Again with the spinning question...

  • Posted on: 3 February 2011
  • By: sean

Dear Sean,
Hi my name is Jake , i am 10 years old and in 4th grade, my PE teachers would not allow me to spin the ball in a pass ans told me, to print out the official rules. your web site has no info...Please message me back so i can play again and show her.

In our league, you are allowed to hit the ball as long as you follow these rules...

1. Hit the ball with only your hands. We define hands as the area between your wrists and finger tips. Can use the front or back, it doesn't matter.

2. You can only hit the ball for a single instant. No catching, no carrying, no holding.

With those rules, it is both possible and legal to hit the ball and spin it at the same time. Back spin and side spin are common in our games.

However, if you are using two hands to make the ball spin then it is possible that your spinning technique will break rule number 2. Two hand spins, where you move one hand up and one hand down to make the ball spin, is too similar to a carry or hold. We don't allow that kind of hit.

Print out this email and bring it to your gym teacher. The two of you can talk about it and decide what to do next in your classes.

Sean

Section: 

Old School

  • Posted on: 12 November 2010
  • By: sean

Dear Sean,
At my school our rules are interesting, so to speak. When I ask my peers about this they say we play "old school." What does that really mean? Thanks, Anson 10/26/2010

Listen, Anson. Old School means a lot of things to a lot of different people. Anything that is from an earlier era and looked upon with high regard or respect may be considered old school. 119 years ago, before there was this crazy thing called "basket ball," some dude and his wife worked out the rules of some silly game about throwing balls into apple crates - and since then his hand written rules were sold for crazy amounts of cash. Those rules are old school because they are original and authentic, but the rules of today are very different.

Now, I don't know much about you or your school, but I bet that it's just filled with kids. Kids between 8 and 14 years old, right? Now, you really have to be around for some time before you can claim to be old school. There aren't a lot of old school players out there in the middle school circuit, so your buddies are using some big words. I mean, if you really want old school four square, I know a guy that could tell you some stories.

Age aside, my guess is that your buddies believe themselves to have some claim on the true heart of the game. That might mean they prefer a more athletic game than that of your average school yard. That might mean they don't like to play with "silly kids rules". Maybe they prefer to play on sidewalk squares rather than on rubberized playground surfaces. Who knows?

To get to the bottom of this, you'll have to discover what the game was like when they first played it, and try to figure out what they believe has been lost over the years since then. Has the game been diluted by rules and restrictions - like the stock market? Has it been hijacked and sold back to us by corporations, like hip hop or baking? Has it's integrity been soiled by a bunch of overpaid drama queens - like the New England Patriots?

If you figure it out, Anson, then come back and let me know what they thought old school meant to them.