BRIDGTON — “Player!” eight men and women shouted somewhat simultaneously early Saturday evening, beckoning the next available four-square player from a line that snaked around the Bridgton Academy gym floor.
The chaotic seventh annual Four Square World Championship meet featured 32 players of all ages playing four to a quadrant in eight large squares taped out on the basketball court.
They were ringed by 66 players mostly from across New England, Pennsylvania, New York City and California, all waiting their turn to rotate into play.
The challenge? Survive three hours of intense athletic activity while scoring points only as the server and trying to eliminate as many opponents as possible to become the men’s and women’s division champs.
Early matches lasted from 5 to 10 seconds, so players didn’t stand in line long while waiting to get back in the action.
“You’ve really got to be good at reading your opponent,” said Sydney Adams, a University of Massachusetts at Amherst player from Granville, Mass. “You’ve got to be ready for any spin on the ball and get ready to charge forward as fast as you can.”
The game is played on four large squares delineated inside a larger square. A player stands in each inside square, bouncing a playground ball into another player’s square.
If a ball bounces into one’s square and out of the game-play area, the player who served the ball scores points.
Adams said she likes to hang back in her square but always be ready to scoot forward should an opponent try to tap a ball just inside her square.
A four square player of two years, Adams suffered an injury during the first round.
“I jumped up to return a spike and landed on my ankle,” she said, lying on the hall floor outside the gym, holding a bag of ice on the swollen ankle.
“If I have enough points to make it to the next round, I might possibly try to walk on it,” she said.
Squarefour, a four square league based in Cambridge, Mass., helped establish the championship, which began as a way to shake the winter blues. It’s also a fundraiser for the Lakes Environmental Association.
Last year’s event attracted more than 100 players.
On Saturday, 98 players ages 6 to 62 took to the floor a few hours after Bridgton Academy’s basketball team defeated Winchendon 91-75.
Sixteen players from the University of New England at Biddeford arrived at 4:10 p.m. and quickly donned black T-shirts sporting the bright orange logo “The Raging Narwhals.”
They huddled at mid-court and then formed a circle and did stretching exercises after painting glare-preventive black rectangles on their cheeks. Other players stretched and shot hoops until the matches got underway.
Peter Lowell, executive director of the association, said he was pleased with the turnout.
“We’re expecting a carload of kids from Virginia and Pennsylvania, a couple of kids from California who came last year, and we’ve got quite a few from New York City, and then God knows who else,” said Lowell, who competes in the event.