9 Square in the Air




About: I am a middle school math teacher in North Central Indiana. I have taught for the past 11 years. In addition to teaching middle school, I have taught at the university level for the last 7 years, write dig...

A couple of teachers wanted to bring the typical youth group activity to life in the middle school. So we set out to redesign the game so we can have more kids playing at a fraction of the cost.

Step 1: Typical 9 Square in the Air

The game is a 9 square that sits anywhere from 6 to 8 feet in the air depending on size and age of those who are playing.

The pieces needed are nothing more than connector joints and pipes.

Online the connector joints cost $339 and the the complete kit runs $799. A large investment for any church or school for a game that only allows 9 students to play at a time.

Step 2: Problems With PVC Pipes

The first design problem we encountered is there is no PVC joint that has 5 connectors. This meant we would have to find a way to connect our pipes differently if we were going to design our own.

Our solution was to take the vertical support and move to the midpoint on each square. This idea would solve two problems. The first of which is now we did not need 5 piece connector. We will discuss the other issued solved in a later steps.

Step 3: Size Vs Height

Knowing the squares themselves would be cut to put support pieces in to address the connector joint in the previous step, we looked at the access we had to PVC pipe.

We decided to go with 2 in pvc pipes that came in lengths of 10 ft.

Question is how big of square did we want, and what height?

We decide on 5 ft by 5 ft squares and that would be 7.5 ft high. These measurements saved us many cuts, and saved us on wasted PVC pipe, remember we are teachers and we are on a budget. We cut the 10 ft pipes into 7.5 and 2.5 pieces.

7.5 ft pieces serve as the support

2.5 ft pieces are the squares(with the connector joints we pick up a few more inches so the square is a little bit bigger that 5ft by 5 ft.

So we have a 25 sq ft box at a height of 7.5 ft. Good size for our aged range of 12-14 years old.


One size of pipe to order, one size of cut to make, and the build only works with 2 different lengths, either its a vertical 7.5 ft piece support, or its 2.5 ft. square piece. No confusion on the build.

We had to count up our pieces and arrived at:

24 7.5 ft pieces

48 2.5 ft pieces

A total of 30 , 10 foot pvc pipes will be needed for on 9 square in the Air game.

PVC 2" x 10 ft pipe cost $4.49 for a total cost on pipes $134.70 in PVC Pipe.

Now its time to take on the connector joints.

Step 4: The Build

Working from the inside out we began to piece our design together. We decided to add bushings onto the end of the vertical poles to provide extra grip as well as protection to the floor. We built the squares first and then with a few extra hands we were able to lift and support the square with 7.5 ft vertical poles. Its not a bad idea to glue a few of the connector joints but you will want to consider storage.

Step 5: Final Cost

30 PVC pipes 2in x 10ft at $4.49 per piece Total cost of pvc pipe $134.70

32 2in T connector joints at $2.48 per piece Total cost of T joints $79.36

4 2in 90 degrees elbows at $.95 per piece Total cost of elbow joints $3.80

24 2in Bushing at $0.84 per piece Total cost of bushing $20.16

FINAL COST : $238.02

Online cost : $799.00

Savings : $560.98


70% Cheaper

Step 6: How to Play

9-Square in the Air Rules


1. The “king” serves the ball from the center square to any other square by hitting the ball up and out of the top of the center game square.

2. Players must return the ball to another player’s square.

3. If a player fails to return the ball to another player’s square, that player is out.

4. A double hit results in elimination.

5. During game play, players are not allowed to touch the game structure. Touching the game structure results in elimination.

6. When a player is out, they leave their square and move to the end of the line. The other players advance to fill the square of the player who just got out.


Players will compete 4 on 5 where team mates are staggered in a checkered pattern. Play similar to rally scoring in volleyball, players try and prevent the ball from landing in their square. The ball can be set into play by the team that scored last, or alternate turns. Game ends when one team reaches a set point limit. More players is not necessarily an advantage as it means you have more squares to cover. This style leads to setting teammates up to score points by incorporating passing between players.

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53 Discussions


Question 8 days ago on Step 4

?? Step 4 The Build picture shows a 4-way connector, but this item is not listed in the 'list of materials needed'. From looking at the drawing and visualizing the design, I believe I will need a total of 4 of the 4-way connectors for the center 'King' square. I bought all of the listed connectors yesterday, but Lowe's did not have enough of the 10' Schedule 40 pipe. I was going to get it from my local hardware store since it's closer, but wanted to see if I also need to get the 4-ways while I'm there. Thanks!


2 years ago

What size and kind of ball do you recommend? I've looked at Walmart and the balls they carry either seem too large or too small. I've also looked on Amazon but not sure of size. Thanks!

2 replies

Reply 13 days ago

I use the large plastic ball from walmart. It cost around $3


Reply 1 year ago

9 Square in the Air company sells replacement balls, they don't have it listed on their site but you can email and buy from them. The price is reasonable compare to their set.


Reply 13 days ago

I went down to the local thrift shop and bought some heavy material, like window drapes. I made 2 bags. One bag for the 5' pieces and 1 bag for the 6' pieces. I put a drawstring on the top and it has held up for quite a few years.


Reply 2 years ago

I bought upright drawstring christmas tree storage bags. They are sturdy and have handles. Largest i could find was 60" so the pvc sticks out the top but works great. I also bought a mesh sports bag to keep the connectors and ball in. Then i had an old metal upright shopping cart laying around that they fit perfectly in so i can roll them in and out.


3 years ago

Great idea! I am definitely going to do this. One question. Do you think 2" PVC is really necessary? I just wonder if you could get away with 1" pipes to save some money...or do you think the structure would be too wobbly with 1" pipes?

4 replies

Reply 13 days ago

We tried 1 inch pcp but it was too wobbly so we used 1 1/4 inch and it worked much better.


Reply 11 months ago

We used 1 1/4 inch. It is much stronger than one inch.


Reply 2 years ago

I just built one with 1" pipes. It's very wobbly, but can be stabilized by staking wires from the corners down into the ground, like one would do with a big circus tent, LOL. We also used the cheap PVC, a step down from Schedule 40. Don't skimp trying to save money--get the Sched. 40. It's sturdier.


Reply 3 years ago

Great question.

We are middle school and we expected a lot of mileage on them. I would bet smaller would also work and it will definitely store better.


Question 11 months ago

How long does it take to set this up?

1 answer

Answer 13 days ago

I can set it up by myself in about 5 minutes


Answer 13 days ago

Yes we've done it multiple times. Rehang misters all around the outside and it seems to work great.


2 months ago on Step 6

I have made approx 200 9-square games Here is how i made them. My cost is about $100 cheaper and we use the large $2.50 walmat ball. You can get all the parts from Home depot online. See part #s.

1 reply