My kids have been loving our Four-Square court in the back-yard and I have been considering ways to mix it up a little so we don't get burned out. I saw a recent You-Tube video by Ana White which inspired me to bite the bullet and make this version.
This version is based on PVC pipes and I wanted to make it height adjustable as I hope this game will be able to grow with my kids for years. In the end, I can adjust the crossbeam from 5 ft to 8 ft. To make the legs expandible, I opted for the two PVC diameters which nest most tightly without interference, 1" and 1 1/4". If you just wanted to keep it one height, you don't need the 1 1/4" lower legs. I suspect that 32mm PN10 PVC will work with 25mm PN10/16 PVC as well, so that may be an option for some users.
If the thin-wall 1" class 200 PVC isn't available, you can substitute additional 1" Schedule 40. The only difference is wall thickness and price.
Two (2) - 1 1/4" Schedule 40 PVC pipes, 10 ft. (lower legs)
Two (2) - 1" Schedule 40 PVC pipes, 10 ft. (upper legs)
Four (4) - 1" Schedule PVC class 200 pipes, 10 ft. (crossbars & uprights)
Four (4) - 1" PVC T-fittings
One (1) - 1" PVC 4-way Cross Fitting
Four (4) - 1" PVC Caps
Eight (8) - Landscaping Nails (for stakes)
Four (4) - 14 ft sections of rope (for guy wires)
Four (4) - 2 1/2" x 1/4" Eye-bolts with nuts
PVC Cement (these are not watertight joints, so primer is not required)
Paint (about two spray cans, to protect against UV, optional)
Acetone (to remove labels, optional)
Masking Tape (only needed if you decide to paint it)
Drill and bits (5/16" and 3/8")
PVC Pipe Cutter or Miter saw
FIle or fine Rasp (to deburr cuts)
Sandpaper (to scuff joints)
Step 1: Step 1: Cutting to Size
Begin by measuring and marking the desired lengths of the legs (1" and 1 1/4" Schedule 40 pipes). Based on my youngest child, I felt 5 ft. was a reasonable minimum game height since she can reach that without jumping. It also means I can extend the legs to over 8 ft, leaving 2 ft between the sections overlapping for stability. (Note: 4 ft. leg sections would allow a 4 ft. minimum, but only a little more than a 6 ft. maximum.)
Cut (2) 10 ft. 1" Schedule 40 pipes to 5 ft. => (4) 5 ft upper legs
Cut (2) 10 ft. 1 1/4" Schedule 40 pipes to 5 ft. => (4) 5 ft lower legs
You will also need to measure and cut the thin-walled C200 PVC pipes for crossbars. The length depends on how large you want each square. I opted for 7 ft and it feels about right. This will leave you with 3 ft. off-cuts, but don't throw those away, we will use them.
Cut (4) 10 ft. 1" Class 200 pipes to 7 ft. => (4) 7 ft crossbars + (4) 3 ft uprights
Keep in mind that most PVC pipes are not cut exactly to length from the factory, although we don't need high levels of precision for a yard game. You may also find that there is a great deal of static build-up on the pipes and that they are quite dirty. A quick wipe-down with a damp rag will help.
I was able to use my ratcheting PVC cutters for all of these cuts, but a miter saw works well to keep your cuts square. I beveled the cut edges with the rasp and cleaned up all of the filings in preparation for painting.
Step 2: Step 2: Prep and Paint
Now that you have cut all of your pipe lengths, give each pipe a wipe with an acetone soaked rag. The printed labels can also be removed with a little rubbing with the acetone. At this point, you can be finished, but I wanted a little paint for UV protection since I plan on leaving it up all summer. A light scuffing with high-grit sandpaper or a Scotchbrite pad can help the paint stick better. Some of the pipes were more difficult to de-label, so they got a little primer to keep the label from bleeding through but I didn't have enough for all of the surfaces.
Mask the ends that will be inserted into fittings since you don't want any paint gumming it up. By laying alI of the pipes together, I was able to quickly paint about 1/4 of each pipe surface at a time saving quite a bit of overspray. I ended up using about 1 1/4 can of green spray paint, a 1/4 can of blue, and a 1/4 can of yellow. I got a little help with painting the fittings.
Once the paint dries, peel off the masking tape and prepare to attach the fittings and drill the connection holes.
Step 3: Step 3: Creating the Crossbars
Once the paint is dry and the masking tape has been removed, the crossbar assembly can begin.
In this plan, I wanted to be able to disassemble this game into a reasonably sized bundle that can overwinter in the attic so many of the joints will not be glued. We used PVC solvent to make the few permanent connections.
Each crossbar will have a T-fitting permanently attached, and one will also have the cross-fitting attached at the other end. When attaching the cross-fitting, make sure to rotate the fitting 90 degrees from the T-fitting (see the cross-bar on the far right of the pic). The cross-fitting will be in the plane of the game, while the T-fittings will be vertical with the legs.
Step 4: Step 4: Completing the Legs
The first step is to add the pipe caps to the 1 1/4" lower as feet. These can be glued, but probably don't need to be. Slide the 1" upper leg sections into the 1 1/4" lower legs, leaving about 1" hanging out for attaching the T-fitting. Drill a 5/16" hole about 2 inches from the lip all the way through both pipes. Remove the inner legs and mark a line every 6 inches from the drilled hole. Reinsert the inner leg and line up each mark with the hole in the outer leg, then drill it out to match. Check that the 1/4" Eye-bolt will slide through both legs, and if not, enlarge to fit. Repeat for each leg.
The last element of the leg assemblies is the guy rope. These can be made several ways but my goal was for all pieces to stay attached. I used the eye-bolts, rope, landscape nails, and a few small pipe cutoffs. I cut half sections of pipe about 3/4" wide and put two holes in each through which I ran the rope. These hold tension in the guy rope while also allowing me to adjust the length to suit. I also used the same 1/2 sections to trap the guy rope on the stakes. (I bent the stakes in my first attempt, but this is not needed. As a result, I heated the PVC to make it pliable to fit around the bend and they appear misshaped.) Pass the loose end of your guy rope through one hole, then around the stake, and back into the other hole of the slider. Tie a simple overhand knot on the loose end to secure.
Step 5: Step 5: Set Up the Game!
This game can be set up with only one person, but a little help makes it much easier.
Lay out all of the parts. Select a leg assembly and place it in the corner of your desired area. Drive the stakes and tighten the guy-wires to hold it upright. Connect the T-fitting of the crossbar with the cross-fitting to the upright leg assembly. If you don't have a helper, the guy-wires should be sufficient to hold this upright.
Next, connect the T-fitting of another cross-bar to another leg assembly. Connect the other end the the crossbar to the cross-fitting opposite to the original crossbar. Place the leg in the opposite corner from the first and drive the stakes, tightening the guy-wires for stability.
Repeat with the remaining legs. Make final adjustments, and connect the boundary marker uprights if you have not done so. The height of each crossbar can also be adjusted if needed.
Step 6: Rules of the Game
This game was envisioned to be played like a mashup of volleyball and 4-square but the rules can be whatever you want. Change them to make it harder just like you would the height of the crossbars.
From the little time that we have been playing, we have had the most fun using a relaxed set of rules. Basically, if it goes over the bars into your area, you need to get it back over between the uprights without it hitting the ground, any number of touches is allowed. Basically, no ground contact and no catches. My kids have found that a beach ball (OLLYBALL) is a little too light and a dodge ball (RHINO) is a little too heavy. We have found an 18" bouncy ball that we like and we will also try a mini-volleyball, too. Unlike volleyball, the ball will tend to bounce and roll on the crossbars which adds to the excitement. Just remember to have fun.
A few options to consider:
Increase the height to make it harder
Limit the number of touches
Prohibit volleyball spikes
Change the ball
Play as teams
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