Four square (also called downball, handball, four squares or box ball) is a global sport played on a square court divided by two perpendicular lines into four identical boxes creating four squares labelled 1–4 or A–D.[1]

Four square
The layout of a four square court.
Setup time30 seconds
SkillsManual dexterity
Social skills

Four square is a popular game at elementary schools with little required equipment, almost no setup, and short rounds of play that can be ended at any time. The game also has a large following for adults in many communities.

History edit

Four square dates to at least the 1950s. A game called four square is mentioned in newspapers in the northeastern United States at least as far back as the 1950s, but the rules are not explained.[2][3] A 1953 teacher's manual describes four square with the same rules used today.[4] However, it is possible this game could have evolved from "Jeu de paume", a game popular in France as early as the twelfth century. [5]

Rules edit

Four square is played on any hard-surfaced court, such as wood, concrete or asphalt. There is no official court size, but typically courts measure between 10 and 30 feet (3.0 and 9.1 meters) on a side, and divided into four smaller squares labelled 1–4 of equal size.[citation needed]

Rules vary, but there are two common objectives. The first is to have the most points when the game ends, where 1 point is awarded to the person in square 4 (the server) each turn. The second is to be the last player who hasn't been eliminated by obtaining a predetermined number of "outs".[citation needed]

One player occupies each of the 4 squares at a time; the other players wait in line. The player in square 4 serves the ball into another square. Once the ball bounces into a square, the player who occupies that square must hit the ball into another square with their hands, and so on, until someone gets out. Each time a player gets out, that player leaves the court and enters the back of the line and all remaining players advance to the higher numbered square (if applicable). Square 1 is then filled with a new player from the line of awaiting players.[6]

A player may get out as follows:[citation needed]

  • Failing to hit the ball into another square
  • Allowing the ball to bounce more than once in their own square
  • Hitting the ball out of the squares or hitting a line
  • Hitting the ball incorrectly such as by holding, catching, or carrying, unless allowed (known as a "sticky")
  • Hitting the ball out of turn or committing interference
  • Hitting the ball one handed (in some versions of gameplay)

Variations edit

Four square has inspired other similar games. One example is nine square, which uses a 3-by-3 grid instead of a 2-by-2 grid.[7] The 9 square is the middle and the ball is served from this position. Another version is played similar to the original in that four players occupy their respective spots, but they must keep the ball off the ground like in volleyball.[8]

The game is called King Out in Sweden. A similar schoolyard game is called handball.[9]

World championships edit

There is no governing body for four square. Tournaments are held in a variety of locations throughout the world. One tournament called "The Four Square World Championships" takes place in Bridgton, Maine, United States, each year. The competition draws athletes from the US and Canada, and has registered competitors from Israel to Bermuda. Winners from various years are:

  • 2023 Men's World Champion, Eric Costanza,[10] Northbridge, Massachusetts, United States
  • 2021 and 2022: Cancelled due to global pandemic
  • 2020 Men's World Champion, Alec Douglas, Norway, Maine, United States[citation needed]
  • 2018 Women's World Champion, Brittany Dunay, Maine, United States[citation needed]
  • 2018 Men's World Champion, Christian Housh, Cambridge, Massachusetts, United States[citation needed]
  • 2018 Women's Junior World Champion, Penny Housh, Cambridge, Massachusetts, United States[citation needed]
  • 2018 Men's Junior World Champion, Sabian Hallin, Maine, United States[citation needed]

Prior world championships have been held in January or February from 2005 through 2018.[11][12]

World records edit

On August 4–5, 2012, a group of 17 Needham High School students and alumni — assisted by 50 other Needham residents at various times — broke the previous world record by playing for 34 hours,[13] the previous record being held by 15 Manchester College students who played the game for 30 hours.[14] The world record was held by eight Argentinean players for 29 hours in 2008, as recognized by Guinness World Records. The Argentinean record was preceded by a group of teens from Youngstown, Ohio, who also played for 29 hours.[15]

Common terms edit

Many terms are used for specific techniques that can be allowed or banned by the primary square:[citation needed]

  • A "sticky" refers to holding the ball. Specified time (in seconds) is decided by the primary square.
  • "Popcorns" are taking the ball and throwing it in the air before hitting it. The amount of popcorns before returning the ball is also decided by the primary square.
  • A "school bus" is when a player calls out said phrase. All player in the four squares must run to the center of the four squares and put their foot at the intersection. The last to do so has lost the round.

See also edit

References edit

  1. ^ "PlayWorks - Foursquare". Retrieved 2024-04-08.
  2. ^ "Junior Reporter Club". Uniontown Morning Herald. 13 September 1958. Retrieved 4 December 2016. At the playground they play four square, ride on the swings, see-saws, and sliding board, and play on the bars.
  3. ^ "Crowley Lists Play Schedule For Next Week". Lewiston Daily Sun. 18 July 1959. p. 2. Retrieved 4 December 2016.
  4. ^ Primary Manual. Cincinnati Public Schools. 1953. p. 343. Equipment: A large rubber ball, a court marked off into four squares labeled A, B, C, and D in sequence. Action: Four players are chosen to take up a position in each square of the court. The other players line up outside the square marked "A." The player in square "D" is the server. He begins the game by bouncing the ball in his own square and hitting it underhand, with both hands, into any other square. The receiver, in turn, attempts to hit the ball into one of the other three squares.
  5. ^ "Jefferson City School District" (PDF). Retrieved 2024-03-29.
  6. ^ "PDF of Four Square Rules from Silver Falls School District in Oregon" (PDF). Silver Falls School District. December 2015. Retrieved 2024-03-16.
  7. ^ "Castle Squares". Retrieved 2024-04-08.
  8. ^ Learn to Play. Castle Sports. Retrieved on 2021-03-04.
  9. ^ Visiting my hometown by PewDiePie. Retrieved on 2019-04-03.
  10. ^ "The New Uxbridge Times". Issuu. 2023-07-02. Retrieved 2024-04-08.
  11. ^ World Champion of Four Square Crowned in Maine (Video) – New England Spotlight. (2010-03-02). Retrieved on 2011-06-18.
  12. ^ The Four Square World Championships attract a competitive and creative field of players to the annual gathering in Maine. – ESPN. (2010-03-04). Retrieved on 2011-06-18.
  13. ^ Four Square Club raises fund for charity with record-breaking game - Hometown Weekly Archived 2013-10-21 at the Wayback Machine. (2012-08-09). Retrieved on 2012-08-15.
  14. ^ Manchester College students try to break a World Record to raise money for church camp – CNN iReport. (2011-02-25). Retrieved on 2011-06-18.
  15. ^ "Huntington University". 2014-01-24. Retrieved 2024-04-08.


External links edit