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Pickleball or Four Square - What's best for you?


Pickleball has become one of the fastest growing recreation activities in the history of sport. Older adults and seniors have led the charge, driven by their passion for competitive game play, social interaction, and desire to remain active and fit.

Local townships, Departments of Recreation, and private businesses have hitched their wagons onto the growing popularity of the sport. National news outlets including CNN, CNBC, and the New York Times recently shared an expose on the incredible explosion of Pickleball.

Although it is unquestionable that Pickleball is exciting, fun filled, and driven by a legion of adoring fans, it still presents several obstacles for individuals seeking to play, and for community recreation programs who are tasked with presenting movement opportunities for all people living in their township. 

Rather than attempting to derail the "Pickleball express", it is more effective to highlight why people love it, and then showcase how the game of Four Square can both supplement the Pickleball experience and stand alone as a worthy alternative.

Pickleball is essentially like so many other traditional sport games; it incorporates offense/defense, strategy, individual or team play, it can be played indoor or out, and offers up an inherent aspect of competition. It also supports the league play format, and can be played with a minimal financial investment for equipment. 

Pickleball truly separates itself because of one "big" reason, the size or footprint of the court. People love the opportunity to play with a lesser risk of injury and wear and tear. I call this the "remote control" special ingredient. Who wants to get up and change channels on the T.V. when you simply reach over and use the remote? Pickleball is the "remote", and people love not having to cover an entire tennis court to play!

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Notwithstanding all of the perks of Pickleball, it simply does not create the perfect inclusive game experience, and it can create logistical headaches for community Directors of Recreation Programs. Here are a few of the key drawbacks:

Drawback 1 - Pickleball courts take up space, often space from traditional tennis courts. This means tennis players/teams now have to compete for court availability. Weather conditions no longer impact court availability exclusively. Directors of Recreation now have a more difficult time keeping the peace on which sport is the "king of the court"

Drawback 2 - Pickleball is a fairly physically impactful sport. A person needs to possess a moderate level of overall fitness, coordination, core balance, and flexibility in order to truly capture the full game experience. Generally speaking not all older adults and seniors are not capable of meeting the physical demands needed to play.

Drawback 3 - Pickleball requires decent racket command skills. Broken down, that means eye-hand coordination, grip strength, reaction time, depth perception  and motor coordination are all essential skills needed to play. Think about it, how many people simply walk up to a racket/paddle and accurately strike a ball consistently? It's not nearly as easy as it seems!


You might be thinking, wow this guy is really trying to "pick" apart Pickleball! It's actually not the intent and the farthest thing in mind. Pickleball should be part of a collection of sports that provides people with numerous methods of enjoying the Power of Play.

Four Square incorporates many of the fantastic game elements, competitiveness, equipment requirements and strategies of Pickleball, however Four Square (FS) is able to minimize if not remove the drawbacks of Pickleball (PB) all together.

PB Drawback #1 - Competition for courts and space needed for courts.

FS Benefit #1: It requires a much smaller footprint, and not necessarily space taken from Tennis courts.

PB Drawback #2 -Physical abilities required to play.

FS Benefit #2: It requires less range of motion, eye hand coordination, depth perception, overall fitness level, and agility to play.

PB Drawback #3 - Sport specific skill ability.

FS Benefit #3: Essentially players can decide to either use one or two hands to contact the ball. Additionally, players could even just catch and bounce to play as well making game play incredibly easy to start.

Here are few more reasons why Four Square deserves serious consideration for adding it to your community sport collection:

1. Intergenerational - Even small children who are working on basic sport skills can play alongside older adults and seniors. Sport specific skills are not a requirement to play. 

2. One can equal 2 or 4 - Only one playground ball is needed for two or four people to play. No nets or paddles needed! Four Square can even be played with a beach ball or balloon!

3. Inside/outside or carpet - Four Square courts can be drawn inside, outside or even in a small room where carpet already exists. Fit and Fun Playscapes offers Four Square across it's Reusable Stencil and Roll-Out Activities® product lines.

In the end, we believe that "less equals more". Four Square provides great physical activity while at the same time requiring less equipment, sport specific skill abilities, physical demands, and physical footprint for courts.

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We encourage you to take a look at our Four Square products and contact us if you have any questions!

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