Throwback Champ: When Four Square Was About Balls 

click to enlarge Summer camp four-square sessions are paying off for Mark Pryor.

Ash Daniel

Summer camp four-square sessions are paying off for Mark Pryor.

The three-time world champion of four square is 6 feet tall, which helps as far as natural gifts go, he says, in that "my arms are kind of long."

Mark Pryor, 28, is slender too, and athletic, as you should be to dash and spike and parry and feint largely within the confines of an 8-foot-by-8-foot tournament square.

But four square is a game beloved by all shapes and sizes, and the lack of fleet-footedness can be offset by a good shot to the corner. As it happens, Pryor has that, too.

"My strategy is mainly a very precise, finesse game," he says, "and kind of looking like I'm going to go one direction and doing the opposite."

For those deprived in childhood, four square is a game in which four players each occupy a square, as laid out on the blacktop or gym floor, that's been divided into four smaller squares. In short, players volley the ball within the grid. Bouncing is involved. So is rotation of players. And it's good to be king.

It's more difficult than it sounds.

Pryor's dad was director at Camp Hanover, which means Pryor lived on the grounds throughout his childhood and "played all summer, every summer," he says. "It was a little ridiculous." Picture little Mark waiting on the court for players — or as he calls them, "my victims."

About six years ago, one of his friends called while Pryor was kicking back on the couch. "What are you doing next February?" the friend asked.

"I'm like, 'I don't know.'

"He was like, 'You're going to Maine.'

"I said, 'Why would I go to Maine in February?'

"He said, 'World Four Square Tournament.'

"And I sat bolt upright."

The world championships, sponsored by the Lakes Environment Association, are held in Bridgton, Maine. Pryor has competed for five years. In February he won his third consecutive championship for his division, which is about 60 people, he says — pretty much everyone who isn't a kid but younger than 50.

He and another friend are now making a documentary about four square, which he contends should be revived among adults far and wide. For now, he'd like to see a good pickup game at the GRTC bus depot, which is conveniently close to his house. Interested? Email richmondfoursquare@gmail.com.

"When you play as adult and you're good, there is a really beautiful flow to the game," he says. "And you kind of live for those moments. …

"Four square is kind of like dodge ball was 10 years ago. You did it as a kid and you liked it as a kid and then forgot about it because you thought only kids played it. I just never forgot about it."

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