Learn the Basic Rules of Handball

This modern sport has been part of the Olympic Games since 1970. It's usually played indoors. Learn the basic rules of handball here.
Learn the Basic Rules of Handball

Last update: 04 July, 2020

It’s without a doubt a fascinating sport that we can enjoy both in the Olympic Games and in the World Cups or local leagues. In this article, we’ll tell you all about the basic rules of handball.

A brief history of handball

Although similar games have been found in Ancient Greece and Rome, the truth is that handball as we know it today is a fairly modern sport. In fact, it dates back to the beginning of the 20th century.

Originally practiced in central and northern Europe, handball has had official regulations since 1926, and international federation since 1928. At first, it was an outdoor sport, and athletes played on soccer fields. In addition, it was eleven against eleven. In fact, this version is still popular in Germany and Austria.

Then, they decided to reduce the number of players and develop it on indoor courts, since they couldn’t play in the winter. The first men’s championship took place in 1954, and Sweden was the champion. Three years later, the women’s cup took place, with Czechoslovakia as the first winner.

As for the Olympic Games, it’s been a part of the Munich 1972 edition for men and Montreal 1976 for women. The main countries that play handball are Germany, Spain, Denmark, Hungary, France, Slovenia, and Switzerland.

Handball is a sport whose dominant feature is that players carry the ball in their hands. The matches consist of two teams of seven players each- six on the field and the goalie- that can change around at any time during the match. The objective is to score more goals than the opponent.

A woman playing handball.

Also, there’s a version of beach handball. It’s similar to the indoor version, but with some significant changes. For example, there are only three field players and a goalie per team. The size of the court is different, measuring 27 x 12 meters. In addition, the terrain is made of sand, and the players are barefoot.

Basic rules of handball

If you’ve ever seen a handball game and this interesting sport caught your attention, the first thing you should do before playing it or watching it is to know the basic rules of handball:

1. The handball playing field is a rectangular 40 x 20-meter court, with two goals at the ends, 3 x 2 meters, and an area of six meters to the goal.

2. You can’t touch the ball from the knee down. In other words, you can’t kick it. However, the goalie can when he’s in his own area.

3. Neither defense nor offense can step into the goalie’s area.

4. You can take up to three steps without bouncing, passing, or throwing the ball. Also, you can’t go more than three seconds without dribbling.

5. It’s a penalty if there’s an obstruction to a shot that was clearly a goal opportunity, such as the attacker facing the goalie. If you commit this near the area, the other team takes a free-kick.

A handball game indoors.

More basic rules of handball

6. To do a throw-in, the player must step on the line with one foot and use his hands to throw the ball.

7. The ball is round and doesn’t have a shiny or slippery surface. It needs to be made of leather or synthetic material. Also, it can’t be more than 60 centimeters in circumference.

8. If the match ends in a tie or if a winner is required, you need to play in overtime, which is played in two parts of five minutes each. You can have more than one overtime, but if they keep ending in a tie, the match is defined through a series of penalties.

9. A player can get a warning (yellow card) and be excluded for two minutes (the referee signals their index and middle finger to signal “two”) or disqualified (red card). In the latter case, this is the rule: the team loses the name, not the man. This is because, after two minutes, another player can replace him. However, the disqualified player can’t re-enter during the match.

10. The handball match lasts two periods of 30 minutes each.

With these basic rules of handball, you have a foundation to understand the game. Also, if you want, take the first steps to try it out. Experience it for yourself!

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This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.