What is Handball?


Handball is a fast-paced team sport, and the objective is to throw the ball into the opposing team’s goal. Handball is also an Olympic event and is played throughout the world. Players pass and dribble the ball to move it around the court. Players are allowed to hold the ball for three seconds before they must dribble or pass. Each team has six court players and one goalie playing at one time. Handball is considered to be a combination of basketball, water polo, and soccer. In Europe, handball remains one of the most popular sports to this day.


handball history

There is speculation that the Ancient Greeks played a game extremely similar to modern team handball. However, handball was first played in Scandinavia and Germany in the late 19th century. The sport was officially named and founded in 1910. In 1936, “field handball,” an 11-player outdoor version of today’s handball, was played in the Olympics. The 11-player version was soon dropped, and in 1972 the seven-player indoor version was brought into the Olympics.

Playing Surface

handball court

Handball is played on a hard-surface court with a goal at each end. The court surface is 40 meters long and 20 meters wide. In comparison, this is much larger than a basketball court (29 m x 15 m). A half court-line separates the court into halves. Nine meters from the goal is the free-throw line; this is a dashed arc. Following penalties that occur within this line, the attacking team puts the ball back into play behind this arc. Penalty throws take place at the penalty mark, seven meters from the goal. The 6-meter line, also known as the goal area line, is an arc surrounding the goal. The goalie is the only player allowed within the 6-meter line.


handball equipment

In handball, the required equipment includes a goal, an appropriate ball, athletic clothing, and athletic shoes. There also must be some type of distinguishing factor between the two teams playing. In organized play, teams wear uniforms to clearly show the difference. In recreational play, teams may use bibs or colored shirts.


Handball Gameplay

Handball is a physical and fast-paced game. The ball is moved around the court with passes. Players may also move the ball with dribbles and steps. When a player catches the ball, the player has three seconds to make a move. The player may choose to pass the ball, take up to three steps, or dribble the ball.

Teams strategically move the ball around to get the ball in the goal. Court players are not allowed within the goal area (6-meter line). However, an offensive player may jump from behind the line, shoot the ball in the air, and land within the line. Goals count as one point each. The game is divided into two halves that are 30 minutes each.

Positions and Roles

Handball player positions

A team in handball consists of seven players: six court players and one goalkeeper. The court players include a center, a left back, a right back, a circle runner, a left winger, and a right winger. The center plays both sides of the court. Also called a playmaker, the center sets up and creates plays for their teammates. The left and right backs are mainly defensive players; they try to make block shots and are often the biggest players on the team. The circle runner leads the offensive attack but also disrupts defensively. The wingers control the sides of the court. They look to counter opposing wingers and get different angles to shoot the ball.

Rules and Regulations

Handball Rules and Regulations

These are the basic rules and regulations of handball:

  • When a player receives the ball, they have three seconds to dribble, throw, or run.
  • Each team is allowed seven players: six court players and a goalkeeper.
  • The goalkeeper is the one player allowed to stand inside the goal area.
  • Players cannot trip, push, hit, or charge opponents.
  • If a foul is seen by a referee, there are a number of penalties that may be called.

Referees and Officials

handball referees and officials

Referees in handball are responsible for ensuring that players follow the rules of the game. This includes judging if players are being too physical, staying within court lines, and following on-ball rules. Referees have the ability to give minor infringements, minor fouls, or majority fouls.

Lingo and Terminology

handball lingo and terminology

The majority of handball terms are in relation to gameplay along with other aspects of the game. Here are some common handball lingo and terminology:

  • Court Player: Players on the court besides the goalkeepers.
  • Corner Throw: A throw made from the corner of the court by an attacking player.
  • Free Throw: A shot given as a result of a penalty made by the opposing team. The offensive team may either pass the ball in or shoot the ball.
  • Penalty Throw: A nine-meter throw. The thrower has a shot with only the goalie in the way. Besides the thrower, all other players must stand behind the free-throw line.
  • Referee’s Throw: The referee throws the ball to resume play after an interruption.
  • Dive Shot: Jumping from behind the 6-meter line, and shooting the ball before landing within the arc.


Handball Coaching

In handball, coaches manage their team’s substitutions, formations, and plays. The majority of professional coaches are retired players. This allows coaches to relate to players and understand their perspectives. Different coaches have different strategies and tactics. Some may encourage an aggressive offense, while others may focus on a strong or rough defense. The coach is responsible for ensuring that each player understands the style in which the team will play.

Skills and Techniques

handball skills and techniques

The main skills in handball include throwing, catching, running, and agility. Throughout handball, the majority of players use similar techniques. When throwing, players may alter arm angles in order to put spin on the ball. Players can also jump and shoot the ball to try and get leverage on their throws. When catching the ball, players can choose to use one or two hands. Players may attempt to use evasive moves to try and get open to shoot or pass the ball.


Handball Strategy

Teams use different strategies and formations to try and outsmart the defense. Defensively, teams can decide between man-to-man defense or a number of zone defense tactics. Offensively, teams have lots of options. They can switch between aggressive and conservative strategies. Further, They can use numerous formations to try and free up opportunities for the offense.

Olympic Handball

olympic handball

In the Olympics, handball is a very competitive sport. A varied version, outdoor team handball, was first introduced to the Olympics in 1936. Modern handball has been an Olympic sport since 1972. European teams tend to dominate the Olympic tournaments, as that is where the sport is the most popular. Some of the most dominant countries include Denmark, Croatia, and France. Men and women each have their own tournaments in the Olympics.

Handball Brands

Handball Brands

In handball, there are many brands that create similar products. Most handball brands create a variety of products. Here are some top handball brands:

  • Adidas
  • Kempa
  • Select

Handball Coaches

Handball Coaches

The coach of a handball team is extremely important, and the most successful teams in handball have all been managed by legendary coaches. Listed below are four of the best coaches in handball history.

Yevgeni TrefilovRussia (Women’s) Team
Claude OnestaFrance (Men’s) Team
Ulrik WilbekDenmark (Men’s) Team
Igor TurchinSoviet Union and Ukraine (Men’s) Teams

Handball Players

Handball Players

Handball players are the most defining factor in a team’s success and they train for years to create careers for themselves in the sport. Listed below are four of the highest-ranked handball players in the world.

Alex DujshebaevSpain
Ludovic FabregasFrance
Cristina NeaguRomania
Nikola KarabaticFrance

Handball Leagues

Handball Leagues

Throughout the world, there are numerous leagues. The International Handball Federation (IHF) runs the highest level competitions in handball. As the sport’s international governing body, The IHF is also in charge of setting standardized rules and regulations. Anything changed in the game of handball goes through the IHF. Here are some popular handball leagues:

  • Premier Handball League
  • EHF Champions League
  • Liga Asobal
  • Danish Men’s Handball League

Handball Teams

Handball Teams

The most well-known handball teams are international teams participating in the Olympics and other international competitions. Some of the most dominant national teams include Croatia, Denmark, France, and Germany. Although there are many other leagues, teams, and tournaments around the world, the most notable teams have always competed on the international stage.

Handball Tournaments

Handball Tournaments

There are handball tournaments occurring around the world all throughout the calendar year. As with most sports, the most watched and important tournaments in handball are international competitions. Listed below are the four most prominent international handball tournaments:

  • IHF World Men’s Handball Championship
  • IHF World Women’s Handball Championship
  • IHF World (Men’s and Women’s) Junior World Championship
  • European (Men’s and Women’s) Handball Championships

Handball Books

Handball Books

For the most part, handball books focus on tutorials and introductory level information. These books will give insight to beginners and those seeking to better understand the sport.

Team Handball: Steps to SuccessMary Phyl Dwight and Reita Clanton
101 Team HandballBeatrice Aurelia Abalasei and Felicia Lidia Radu
Handball: The Story of Wales’ First National SportKevin Dicks

Handball Websites

Handball Websites

There are a handful of websites that address the sport of handball. Some focus on basic information, while others focus on news, blogs, or other general information regarding the sport.

Handball PlanetBlog
Stregspiller News Forum News and Opportunity
Ghana HandballBlog


What is handball?

Handball is a sport that involves throwing, running, or dribbling a ball to try and score on the opponent's goal. Handball is fast-paced and physical. Often, it is considered to be a combination of basketball, soccer, and water polo. Handball is played by strategically passing the ball, moving, and spacing to try to get the best shot possible on goal. Defensively teams use a number of tactics, including man-to-man defense and zone defense, to try and slow down their opponents.

How do you play handball?

To play handball, one team attempts to score goals by throwing a hand-sized ball into the net while the other team tries to stop them. Handball is played on a rectangular court with a goal on either end. Each team fields six attacking and defending players and one goalie. Each regulation game takes 60 minutes, with two equal halves and a break in between. The winning team is whoever has the most goals when time expires.

What are the rules and regulations of handball?

To move the ball, players can pass to a teammate, dribble by bouncing the ball on the ground, or they can take three steps. If they travel by taking more than the allotted number of steps, then a turnover occurs. There is a semi-circle surrounding the goal, called the crease, that only the goalie is allowed into. In handball, it is illegal for players to kick the ball or strike an opponent in any way. The referee can award a penalty shot for a serious foul or infraction.

What is the history of handball?

Handball, also known as team handball, was originally created in northern Europe in the 1800s. The more modernized variant began in 1917 and grew so quickly that by 1936, handball was already an Olympic sport. While played throughout the world, it is still the most popular and widely played in Europe.