Four square

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

Four square is a team sport played among two teams with two players each on a square court divided into four quadrants: A, B, C, and D (usually numbers 3, 4, 2, and 1, respectively, depending on the court.) The square that a player gets to before anyone else immediately becomes their position in the game. The objective of four square is to eliminate players on the opposing team to achieve the highest rank on the court, and this is done by bouncing the ball back and forth between quadrants. A player on one team may bounce the ball to an opponent team's player's square, and tries to bounce the ball in a state that the player on the opposing team can not hit it to another square. The winning team will move up in the ranks, and the team that reaches the highest rank, A (usually number 3 on numbered courts depending on the court), first, wins, with all the losing team's players being eliminated. A player is eliminated when a ball is bounced in a player's quadrant and the player is unable to bounce the ball into another player's quadrant. It 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.

Playing environment[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 equal-size squares. Each of the four squares has a rank and is occupied by a single player. The ranks may be arranged so that either the highest ranking square is positioned facing the lowest ranking square, or the ranks increase as one moves clockwise (or counterclockwise).

The lines on the court are boundaries. The interior lines separating player squares are out of bounds. The ball may not touch any portion of an inside line or the player who hit the ball is in error. The lines marking the outermost edges of the court are typically considered in-bounds.[1] These boundary rules are often described as "inside out, outside in." In recreational play, and even with a judge in tournament play, it is often difficult to determine if the ball hits the line.

Ball usage[edit]

A boy crouching with a green utility ball speeding toward him
A boy about to hit a green utility ball in four square

Four square is played with a rubber utility ball, typically 8.5 inches (220 mm) diameter, and inflated to 2 psi (14 kPa). However, other sizes and types of balls can be used.

During regular play, or "classic," the ball must be hit with the player's hands only.

In classic play, carrying, catching, or holding the ball during play is not allowed, although putting spin on the ball is allowed as long as carrying does not occur. Prolonged contact with the ball can give players unfair control over the play. Hitting the ball must create a perceptible change in the ball's velocity (speed or direction).[1]


Players may be eliminated from the court because of errors or fouls they commit. Eliminated players leave the court, the remaining players move up to the next highest square, and a new player joins the court in the lowest square. Eliminated players wait in line for their next turn.

The following actions may result in elimination (although many variations exist):[2]

  • Failing to hit the ball into another square
    • Missing the ball
    • Hitting the ball into your own square
  • Hitting the ball out of turn
  • Hitting the ball with a prohibited body part
  • Hitting the ball out of bounds (or onto an internal boundary line)
  • Hitting the ball before it touches the ground

Game scalability[edit]

Four square is a popular game for children and school playgrounds. It is possible to scale the game's difficulty and supervision appropriately for different age groups and ability levels. Schools, churches, and camps often change the size of the court, the type of ball, or aspects of the rules to create variation in play or to suit the players' abilities.

Similar games[edit]

Four square has inspired other similar games. One example is nine square where instead of the grid being two-by-two, it is three-by-three. The king court is in the middle and the ball is served from this position. The rules are similar in how the ball is passed between players by bouncing between squares. Other branches of the game have been popularized in recent years which are played on an aerial grid. It is similar to the original in that four or nine people play in their respective spots, but they must keep the ball off the ground like in volleyball. Rotation and rules are similar to each grounded rendition. [3]

The game is also similar to Handball.


Four square dates back to at least the 1950s. A game called "four square" is mentioned in newspapers at least as far back as the 1950s, although the rules are not explained.[4][5]

Four Square is described with the same rules used today in a 1953 teacher's manual.[6]

The game is known as "King Out" in Sweden, and many players refer to the person in the server square as the "king."[7]

World championships[edit]

Jasper Turner, the 2007 Men's World Champion.

The Four Square World Championships, is a regional competitive adult four square tournament, which takes place in Bridgton, Maine, USA, each winter season. The Lakes Environmental Association hosts this annual winter fundraiser to support their environment in the lakes region of Maine, USA. The competition draws athletes from the US and Canada, and has registered competitors from Israel to Bermuda. As of February 22, 2014,[8] The results of the February 24, 2018, competition are:

  • 2020 Men's World Champion, Alec Douglas, Norway, Maine, USA
  • 2018 Women's World Champion, Brittany Dunay, Maine, USA
  • 2018 Men's World Champion, Christian Housh, Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA
  • 2018 Women's Junior World Champion, Penny Housh, Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA
  • 2018 Men's Junior World Champion, Sabian Hallin, Maine, USA

Prior world championships have been held in January or February from 2005 through 2018.[9][10]

World records[edit]

On August 4–5, 2012, a core 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,[11] the previous record being held by 15 Manchester College students who played the game for 30 hours.[12] The world record was previously 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, OH who also played for 29 hours.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Official Rules of Four Square. (2004-09-10). Retrieved on 2011-06-18.
  2. ^ Monstrous Collection of Cool Rules. (2010-02-23). Retrieved on 2011-06-18.
  3. ^ Learn to Play. Castle Sports. Retrieved on 2021-03-04.
  4. ^ "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.
  5. ^ "Crowley Lists Play Schedule For Next Week". Lewiston Daily Sun. 18 July 1959. p. 2. Retrieved 4 December 2016.
  6. ^ 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.
  7. ^ Visiting my hometown by PewDiePie. Retrieved on 2019-04-03.
  8. ^ Nearly 100 players compete in Four Square World meet. Sun Journal (2011-02-27). Retrieved on 2011-06-18.
  9. ^ World Champion of Four Square Crowned in Maine (Video) – New England Spotlight. (2010-03-02). Retrieved on 2011-06-18.
  10. ^ 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.
  11. ^ 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.
  12. ^ 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.


External links[edit]