Dear Sean,
Can you hit the ball before it bounces? Also, if a ball bounces in someone's square, but someone else hits it by accident, who is out? Thanks! - Cara 5/22/2009

Thanks for the note, Cara. We get this question a lot and get a lot more like it all the time. But I'll put a definitive answer on the internet right now. There are two questions here. One, does the ball have to bounce, and two, who is allowed to touch the ball. Here goes...

Players effectively "possess" the ball from the instant the ball touches floor of their square. That means if the ball lands in the square that you are standing then ONLY YOU can hit the ball next. If someone else touches that ball before you do then that other player is out. So it's up to everyone to take careful note who is in possession of that ball and either hit it or stay the hell away from it.

And don't go saving your "friends" if they hit a ball out of bounds or fail to hit the ball out of their square. There are no friends in four square.

Ok, so that's the answer to question two. But what about question one?

Once a player has touched the ball they basically relinquish possession. From the instant that the player's hands break contact with the ball any other player can step in and hit it. They do not need to wait until the ball touches the next square to do it.

Players take a big risk here. Waiting for the ball to bounce in your square gives you a hair of a breath to make a strategic decision - while not waiting leaves open a wider margin of error. Why hit a ball that is not headed for your court? Why not let it sail out of bounds rather than risk your neck to keep it in play? Well, that's all up to how aggressive your peeps like to play. If that's how you like to roll, then roll.

So, so sum it up. You do not have to let the ball bounce, especially if you like hasty decisions. And if your friend touches your ball before you do then your friend is out for poaching. You can't kill animals out of season.