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FourSquare
Open Palm  ||  Free Style  ||  Competition

FourSquare is a game that is played with a playground ball, or kick-ball ball, and is played on a court that is approximately 12 feet by 12 feet and separated into 4 squares. Gameplay is very similar to that of hand ball or tennis (without the rackets). Once the ball has been set into play, the players (one in each square) will hit the ball back and forth to one another until someone makes an error and becomes out. There are many variations to this game, which is also called Kings Court, and game play changes depending on where you live.

Below, I have the rules that I was forced to play with at my local pool when I was a kid. I also have the rules that we played with when the lifeguards weren't around. I say that "we" invented most of this stuff, but I'm almost sure we got it from someone else...most likely. I refer to these two styles of play as Open Palm and Free Style. And, for your four square enjoyment, I have my own Competitive Play rules.

Open Palm style of play

The Open Palm style is based on some rules that have been posted at our pool since the 80's, at least. It is the simplest form of play as well as the most fast paced and most widely hated. It is also the basic form of play that any other style is based on. I have been able to keep this form of play alive due to the notion that you must play nicely (which is popular for the little kids and those who are not that good). However, this isn't always the case.

The rules are simple. Square #4 is in charge; whatever Square 4 says, goes. Square 4 will serve the ball by first dropping it in their square and then hitting it, on the bounce, to one of the other squares. The next person's square the ball lands in must hit the ball to another square before the ball bounces a second time in their square. This continues until someone makes an error and becomes out. There are multiple errors that can be made:

         the ball bounces twice in your square

         you hit the ball before it bounces in your square (and do not perform a bus-stop) [volley]

         you hit the ball twice before it bounces again

         you carry the ball (usually with one hand)

         you hold the ball (usually with both hands)

         you throw the ball sideways or overhand

         you hit the ball overhand [spike]

         you hit the ball out of bounds

         you hit one of the lines that form the four squares (outside lines are in)

         you step into another square while hitting the ball or interfere with the ball while it is obviously not traveling towards your square [interference]

         you kick the ball or hit the ball with any part of your body other than your hands

The object of the game is to occupy Square #4 as long as possible. When playing a recreational game there is no real form of score keeping. But the objective is still the same.

Gameplay is simple but has the potential the become intense. Square 4 will serve the ball in a manner that is not hard to receive. The ball will get passed between the four squares as the speed of gameplay increases. Once an error is made, gameplay is stopped and the person who made the error is "out." That person leaves the court and the other players move to the next highest square. Square #1 is filled in either with the player who was out, or a player from a "line." The game continues this way as long as people want to play. Oh, and there are rules to remember:

         if you make any of the above errors, you are "out"

         you must hit the ball underhand

         you must hit the ball with your palms open

         square 4 must serve the ball with one foot on the outer corner

Then, here are some terms, which can be considered tricks or ways to play:

         bus-stop - when the ball is hit to you, you tap it before it bounces in your square, let it bounce in your square, and then hit it to another square

         spinner - a hit with spin applied to the ball

         baby drop - hitting the ball to another square really low to the ground

         snake eyes - looking at one square and hitting the ball to another

         shoe shiner - hitting the ball at someone's feet

         war - in the condition that two people don't agree on who's out, the two people will play a game of "two square" to determine who will be out

Free Style gameplay

Another way to play FourSquare is in Free Style. This style allows you to break some of the rules of an Open Palm style of play. It also adds some excitement with extra tricks.

The rules are similar to those of the Open Palm style except for a few things:

         you are allowed to carry the ball, for a short amount of time

         you are allowed to hold the ball, for a short amount of time

         throwing the ball is frowned upon, but not necessarily illegal

         you don't have to hit the ball underhand

         sometimes you can hit the ball more than once

         sometimes you can let the ball bounce more than once

Some of the tricks require you to hold or carry the ball. Other tricks simply negate the rules altogether. Here are some of the tricks that Square 4 can call:

         bus-stop - when the ball is hit to you, you tap it before it bounces in your square, let it bounce in your square, and then hit it to another square

         spinner - a hit with spin applied to the ball

         double touches - you are able to hit the ball twice before it goes to another square

         volleys - hitting the ball before it has a chance to hit your square (the ball never hits your square)

         double bounces - the ball can bounce twice in your square

         baby drop - hitting the ball to another square really low to the ground

         cherry bombs - bringing the ball from up high, very fast into another square

         snake eyes - looking at one square and hitting the ball to another

         shoe shiner - hitting the ball at someone's feet

         war - in the condition that two people don't agree on who's out, or for any reason at all, two people will play a game of "two square" to determine who will be out

         jackpots - you simply catch the ball and say, "jackpot"

         impossible - holding the ball on another square making it impossible to recover

         frozen square - a time-out for a square

         fireballs - a way to break a frozen square

         butterfly - bringing the arms behind you and throwing them forward hitting the ball very hard

         soccer style - players must play as if juggling a soccer ball, using only the feet and knees

         goalie - called along with soccer style; players may use their hands

Competition Play

To play FourSquare competitively simply add teams and a time limit. Use whichever style of play you like. The object of the game is always the same: stay in Square 4 as long as possible.

You will have two teams of three. The teams will each have a captain. The captains will flip a coin with the referee to determine which team starts with a player in Square 4. The only other duty of the team captain is to dispute calls made by the referee. No other teammate may dispute calls.

While gameplay follows the same rules as above, there are other rules that apply to competitive FourSquare:

         Teams will play up to three rounds

         A round consists of a 2 minute warm-up followed by 5 minutes of gameplay

         The team who keeps a player in Square 4 for the most amount of time wins the round

         The team who wins 2 out of 3 rounds wins the match

         the ball may not be hit to the same team more than 4 times consecutively

The main thing you need to remember about any competitive play is to clearly define the rules of play, as well as the competition rules. This way, there is little debate over calls.

I hope you can enjoy FourSquare as much as I do.

 
 

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