Membership at a Peak, Four-Square Club Vies for Legitimacy
Article and photos by Leon Sommer-Simpson
Most people have played it during summer camp, or recess, favoring the battleground of chalk and cement to the dull life of the playground. Many Northsiders assumed that the last time they would play four-square would be in elementary school, but they were wrong.
Four-square club began with the players. Blake Lehman, Adv. 804, Fernando Velazquez, Adv. 800, Daniel Agbeo, Adv. 806, Jadd Oweimrin, Adv. 803, and Guy Lahoua, Adv. 808, found themselves bored one pleasant spring day during colloquium lunch. What could they play with just a tennis ball behind the school? Wall-ball with the freshmen was certainly not an option. Suddenly, Oweimrin discovered that the grid of square pavement blocks allowed perfectly for one of the most cherished games of their childhoods; four-square. They played for hours; crouching, diving, bodies low to the ground to protect against the much feared drop-hit. The tennis ball they played with, rarely seen on the court today, made it a difficult game, where precision was key and mess-ups were frequent. Nowadays, kickballs and soccer balls are the club’s balls of choice. The early rules were crude, as each player brought different versions of the game from their home court, but that would soon change.
Four-square is played with a ball, four squares, and four or more participants at any time. Each member of play has his own square which he occupies, affectionately labeled King, Queen, Jack, and Toilet (although alternate names for this last square are common). The objective of the game is to move your way up through the court to the much revered “King” position. Each round of four-square begins with the King dropping the ball into their own square and serving it into the square diagonal from them. The receiving player then hits the ball into any other player’s square besides their own, and so on and so forth. If a player hits the ball out of the court, hits the ball into their own square, or allows the ball to bounce again after hitting their square, they are out, and move to the back of the line. From here the rules get more intricate.
“Spikes” and “whips,” hits deemed unplayable due to height and speed, are not allowed in most games. Players cannot “save” others, meaning that if a ball has bounced in another player’s square, you cannot touch this ball, despite its entering your square. If the ball hits you anywhere on your body other than your hands, this is still regarded as your one hit, and normal rules apply to the legality of the play. At Northside, the two main courts are jokingly labeled “Varsity” and “JV.” Players who perform poorly on the Varsity court often receive jeers of “JV!” from their peers, letting them know where to go. Most Northside games have a referee to assist with calls. However, even with referees, arguments are commonplace at four-square club, but they are usually resolved peacefully.
The Struggle for Sponsorship
A common sight behind Northside most days after school are the many members of the club playing out back. On Mondays, the official meeting day, upwards of forty people gather to play. Students are generally energetic, releasing stress from throughout the day on the court. But it wasn’t always easy for four-square club. At Club Hub, Northside’s annual gathering of clubs, four-square club had a strong presence. According to co-president Blake Lehman, the club attracted 120 people to sign up. Despite popularity at the event, they were nearly told to shut down for lack of official registration. A week earlier, Miguel Rascon (Adv. 808) and Velazquez lobbied for sponsorship from Mr. Matthew Madia, Physical Education department, who claimed to be too busy. They also spoke with Mr. Jeffrey Mallon, Social Sciences department, who told them that they “didn’t need a club to play four-square.”
In response to this discrimination, Lehman decided to call an all club meeting on Tuesday, October 17 in order to form a protest, and to play. The tape was rolled out, the balls were inflated, but before the games began, they took a knee. Co-president Velazquez said, “We are struggling to get the attention and support from the school that we feel we deserve. Let’s show the school how important our club is to the community at Northside.”
The day after, the club was sponsored, Mr. Mallon decided that it was worth backing the club after seeing the tremendous turnout for their first official meeting. He said “I haven’t seen kids be this excited for anything except for I-day in a long time.” It’s not too late to join in on the excitement at the next four-square club meeting; be there, or be square.