Anybody can play

Kenn Oliver
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Squareball Province can boast world's best

It's played in summer camps, in after-school programs, on playgrounds and on university campuses, including Memorial.

And it's on the concrete quadrant beneath the shadow of the clock tower where the recently crowned men's world champion of squareball, Cody MacDonald, honed his skills in the sport - also known as four square.

MacDonald and fellow MUN squareballer Daniel Miller competed in the Four Square World Championship in Bridgton, Me, in February, with both making it to the finals. Miller finished seventh overall. while MacDonald emerged as the tournament's men's champ.

MUN students play a game of squareball near the university centre Thursday. Photo by Keith Gosse/The Telegram

It's played in summer camps, in after-school programs, on playgrounds and on university campuses, including Memorial.

And it's on the concrete quadrant beneath the shadow of the clock tower where the recently crowned men's world champion of squareball, Cody MacDonald, honed his skills in the sport - also known as four square.

MacDonald and fellow MUN squareballer Daniel Miller competed in the Four Square World Championship in Bridgton, Me, in February, with both making it to the finals. Miller finished seventh overall. while MacDonald emerged as the tournament's men's champ.

"Every time I thought about it, I only thought of me winning," said the MacDonald 19-year-old commerce student from St. John's.

"To be honest, I never considered the alternative."

MacDonald got his start in squareball a little over a decade ago at Vanier Elementary, where he picked it up from classmates. It eventually became a regular pastime for he and his friends in the Balmoral Place neighborhood.

"I actually don't think I really liked it much back then because I found there were too many kids doing cheap plays," contends the St. John's native and graduate of Gonzaga high. "Now, where everyone is older that I play with, it's a lot more structured."

So structured in fact, that Miller initiated a Squareball Society at Memorial University.

Having one of their own named world champion isn't all the society can boast; they broke the Guinness world record for longest continuous game of squareball - 28 hours - in June of last year.

Now at 30 members strong and with the best squareball weather on the way, MacDonald says the society - and court - is open to anyone; men and women, young and old, students and non-students.

"It's something different, it's not your regular sport, actually, it's almost a social gathering in a way. And anyone can play and be good at it, it doesn't require athleticism or any special skills."

While the society is anxious for the return of more accommodating weather, inclement conditions have never been a dampener for this hearty bunch. While leagues in the U.S. and elsewhere play inside for the most part, MUN squareballers thrive on playing on concrete, pavement, and in conditions even the heartiest of red-blooded American couldn't endure: rain, drizzle, wind and fog - St. John's.

"I guess we're tougher here," MacDonald suggests, but maintains the group will usually head indoors when the snow gets too thick.

Bridgton bound

The Four Square World Championship isn't an official event, but with no global body governing the fringe sport, it's as close as you'll find to the real deal.

MacDonald and Miller caught wind of it through a Boston-based league they found online. After contacting the event's founder, Peter Lowell, they learned it fell in the midst of a busy time in their studies at MUN. Lowell asked when a better date would be and rescheduled the entire tournament so the two young Newfoundlanders could compete.

After a flight to Boston and a roadtrip to the town of Bridgton - population 30,000 in the summer months, less than 5,000 in the winter - MacDonald and Miller found themselves face to face with close on 100 of the best squareballers in the U.S.

Following round-robin play, the pair narrowly made the cut for the semifinals and finals.

Miller, according to MacDonald, "played phenomenal."

"Best I've ever seen him play. (He) pulled off some between the legs moves, some 180s, 360s and combinations," he said of his more technical teammate.

But it was MacDonald's pure hustle, a trait he's particularly proud of, that elevated him above the rest.

"I had a bunch of dives, one after the other."

In the finals, MacDonald held on to the four square long enough to garner enough points to cement his spot atop the podium. And as of right now, the champ has every intention of heading back to Bridgton next February to defend his title. He might even bring a little help.

"Hopefully we'll bring more of our team down because I think we could definitely grab more of the final positions."

koliver@thetelegram.com




FACTBOX

Square what?
So, a Newfoundlander is the best (unofficially) in the world.
0But, what is it?
The game itself can be played pretty much anywhere there is a flat surface where a court measuring roughly 16' by 16' can be created using tape or chalk.
The court is divided into four squares: square one, where players enter the game from a single file of awaiting entrants; squares two and three; and square four, the service square where an entrant receives a point for each serve.
Game play begins with square four serving the ball to square one.
After a single ball bounce in square one, the player there must return the ball to any of the other three squares before a second bounce.
The game continues until a player makes an error by allowing the ball to bounce twice or hitting the ball outside the four squares, at which time they are knocked out and sent to the end of line to wait for another turn.
When a square is vacated the player from the next lowest ranked square moves in with the ultimate goal of getting to square four... and staying there.
It might seem, by that description, like a foreign game more likely to be seen being played by children in the background of a television infomercial soliciting support for the impoverished youth of a third world country.
But in reality, squareball has been played in and around the St. John's region for quite some time.
Campers in the City of St. John's Parks and Recreation summer day camp program were playing squareball as early as 1990, if not earlier.
And today you can swing past St. Paul's Junior High or Prince of Wales Collegiate during recess or lunch hour to get a first hand look.
WWW
Weblinks
www.themuse.ca/view.php?aid=40313
www.youtube.com/user/munsquareball
www.squarefour.org

Organizations: Squareball Society, Guinness

Geographic location: St. John's, Bridgton, U.S. Balmoral Place Boston St. Paul

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Recent comments

  • Natalie P.
    July 02, 2010 - 13:27

    I played this game as a child in California, only we called it Four Square. It was my favorite game at recess. Thanks for the refresher on rules and method of play!

  • Natalie P.
    July 01, 2010 - 20:14

    I played this game as a child in California, only we called it Four Square. It was my favorite game at recess. Thanks for the refresher on rules and method of play!