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Inside Events: Four Square World Championships

14 Jan, 2021

By: Mary Helen Sprecher
An Interview with Peter Lowell, Retired Executive Director, The Lakes Environmental Association

squarefour.org | www.mainelakes.org | Maine Sports Commission

Four Square is a ball game played among four players on a square court divided into quadrants. The object is to eliminate other players to achieve the highest rank on the court. A player is eliminated when a ball is bounced in a player's quadrant and the player is unable to serve the ball into another player's quadrant.

The Four Square World Championships is a competitive tournament, which takes place in Bridgton, Maine each winter. The Lakes Environmental Association hosts this event as an annual fundraiser. The competition draws athletes from the U.S. and Canada and has registered competitors from Israel to Bermuda. 

Sports Destination Management: Okay, admittedly, a lot of people just think of four square as a playground game, the way they think of dodgeball (which is also a tournament sport). Is it really competitive?

Peter Lowell: At our championship, it is. The finals, both the men’s and the women’s, are almost jaw-dropping. As a sport, it’s very, very challenging. The better you get at it, the more you start understanding the nuances and moves and all the strategy involved. But at first, a lot of people think it’s a silly playground game.

SDM: The court is easy to lay out.

Lowell: Yes – it’s basically just an 16-foot by 16-foot square made up of four 8 x 8 squares. It’s really easy to lay it out and get a game started.

SDM: Does the surface need to be marked and is any special flooring preferred?

Lowell: We usually advise using brightly-colored masking tape and as far as the surface, you really need a gymnasium floor – although honestly, you’ll find kids scratching out a court in the dirt or marking it on a parking lot. I always travel with chalk and a ball.

Note: According to rules, the ball is generally an inflatable ball measuring 8-1/2” and inflated to 2 pounds. (Balls are sometimes also sold as “playground balls” or “kickballs.”

SDM: If you travel with chalk and a ball, have you had success bringing the game to other areas?

Lowell: Yes -- The other beauty of this game – you can play it anywhere. We were in Guatemala and found a dirt parking lot that was lit only by a couple 100 watt bulbs. We scratched out a four square court and started playing and people came up to see what was going on and suddenly, there was a line of people waiting to play. All they needed was a stick to mark out the lines and a ball to play with.

Another time, we were playing at our old venue and it was getting dark and a snowstorm was coming up. A group of students one year came through the door; they’d been out driving in the snow and had seen the lights on in the gym and came in. We invited them to play and they enjoyed it so much that they came back the next two or three years. They actually got their school, the University of Connecticut, to sanction a team. I think that might have been the only sanctioned college team in existence.

SDM: Obviously, you grew up playing it.

Lowell: Yes – we always carried a tennis ball and chalk. If we went to weddings as little kids and we got bored during the reception, we’d go outside into the parking lot, mark off a court and start playing.

SDM: Do a lot of people remember it?

Lowell: It depends. A lot of people remember it because they played it as a kid, and they have all these great memories of it – or else they have no idea what it is. But these days, a lot of schools have it for phys-ed and I’ve seen some schools that have the courts already painted on the playground.

SDM: Getting back to the championship, what is the attendance like?

Lowell: The attendance ranges from 60 players up to 120. We had to move our venue after the first three years. We’d like to see more people; we’re the bona fide world championships so we should be attracting thousands.

SDM: What is the geographic range of participants?

Lowell: We’ve had people from Newfoundland, Florida, all over Canada – it’s been fun. Our players predominantly come from New England and metropolitan New York because of the proximity.

SDM: How long have you been putting on the championships?

Lowell: 2020 was our 16th year.

SDM: The world championships are usually presented in February. Will you be doing that this year?

Lowell: We’re doing it in November this year. We will be getting the word out to everyone in advance.  

SDM: Is awareness of the game growing?

Lowell: Yes – every couple of months, I get an e-mail from a rec director in someplace like Little Rock, and they want to set it up, but they don’t know how to do that. We’re able to give them information on the www.SquareFour.org site, which has the layout for the court and other information.

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