Handball is one of the simplest of the sports, both to understand as a spectator and to

learn as an active participant. It
s also an excellent way to stay in shape, since it combines

many of the benefits of both calisthenics and jogging.


Handball was first played in ancient Rome. In

fifteenth century Spain and France, it was

played as
pelota.It was called fivesin

England in the sixteenth century. The current

version of the game was developed in Ireland

in the mid eighteenth century. Phil Casey built

the first U. S. handball court in 1886.

Handball enjoyed a huge increase in popularity

in the U. S. during the fitness movement

that swept the country in the 1970s and 1980s.

Handball fans saw the sport as a body conditioner

which, unlike running or riding stationary

bicycles, provided a social context for a

demanding form of aerobic exercise.

Team handball, which incorporates many elements of handball as described below under Basic Concepts,was invented around

1890 by Danish track and field athletes as a conditioning sport. It was team handball that

developed into the Olympic version of what is called handballin Europe and teamhandball

in the United States.

Rules were standardized in 1924 by the International Handball Federation (IHP). Eleven

nations met at the Olympic Games in 1928 to form the International Amateur Handball

Federation and write the international handball rules. Handball was removed from the

Olympic program in 1948. The U. S. Team Handball Federation (USTHF) was formed

in 1959, and team handball was reinstated in the Olympics in 1972.



The crux of the game of handball is to keep

returning the ball to the front wall. If the

receiver does not return the ball, the server

scores a point. If servers fail to return the

ball, they lose the serve. A player can score

only when he/she is serving. The first player

to reach 21 points is the winner. The rules

of the game can be summed up as follows:

1. The server bounces the ball,

then hits it against the front

wall. The serve must bounce

back beyond the short line

into the court. A fault occurs

if the ball hits the ceiling or

any of the other walls.

2. If two faults are committed, the server loses the serve.

3. The receiver must return the serve to the front wall. The ball is allowed to

hit a side wall, for example, before hitting the front wall. The ball cannot

touch the floor before it reaches the front wall.

4. The receiver cannot cross the short line until the ball has crossed the short

line first after a serve.

5. During the rally, either the server or receiver can return the ball before it

touches the floor. The ball must be returned before it bounces on the floor


The game of handball is organized so that two, three or four players can play. In Olympic

team handball, each side has seven players. If only two people play, one is the server

and one the receiver. When four persons play, it is called a doubles game. The server and

his/her partner are the serving team and the other two players are the receiving team.

Cut-throat handball,or a three-person game, pits one person against the other two.

One player is the server while the other two are receivers. This structure continues on a

rotating basis until the first player

with 21 points wins.


The game of handball is comprised

of much more than running back

and forth inside the court and hitting

the ball. The game requires

careful planning and strategizing in

order to handle the various types of

shots in the best way. Key skills for

the handball player include learning

to anticipate, concentrate and


It is often difficult for a more experienced

player to anticipate shots

when playing with a beginning player. New players often do things that seem illogical,

and sometimes perform the various strokes poorly. It is helpful for the beginner to practice

observing how more experienced players play and also simply to watch the flight of

the ball around the court. With practice, it becomes easier to anticipate an opponent

next move.

Concentration is a second major ingredient for success on the handball court. A handball

s top priority during the game is to think about what the ball is doing or what it isgoing to do. Losing focus and concentration nearly always results in losing points, and

perhaps, losing the game!

Maintaining control over the game at all times also can help a beginning player develop

into a winning player. Control means remaining calm, collected, focused and confident.

Being out of control means not thinking about strategy, not watching the ball, and/or

losing ones temper if a shot is missed.



A players hand work is not enough to win a game of

handball. Footwork is equally essential to the skilled


If a player is right-handed, he or she will shift the body

weight from the right back foot to the left front foot as

the ball shifts. The legs should remain slightly flexed so

that when the ball comes, the player can step into the



There are three basic strokes used in handball: the overhand, the sidearm and the underhand.

While all three strokes are considered crucial to the game, the sidearm is thought

to be the most important.

overhand stroke in handball closely resembles a tennis overhand. Butinstead of a racquet hitting a tennis ball, the handball players palm and

cupped fingers strike the handball. The ball is then stroked upward toward

the ceiling and the arm follows through on the shot.

This stroke requires great control and a feather touch.

The sidearm stroke is most frequently used because it

is the serving stroke. The sidearm also allows the player

to return the ball before it falls into the back court and

therefore, is harder to return. The ball is returned as it

crosses the mid-line of the player
s body. The players

weight shifts from the back foot to the front foot, with

the body kept low. The swing is parallel to the floor.

The contact point with the ball is at the knee.

underhand stroke is similar to a digging

motion. This stroke is used mainly for diggingout

low balls and returning them to the

front wall. Professionals advise against using

this stroke for rallying, or exchanging shots

with the opponent. Players often look like they

are bowling when performing the underhand



There are also three basic types of shots in handball: the passing shot, the kill shot and

the ceiling shot. All three shots are used in conjunction with all three types of strokes.

1. The
passing shot does just thatit passes by the opponent. When an opponent

is in front of a player, the player with the ball hits the ball to the front

wall so that the ball rebounds out of the opponent
s reach. This shot typically

scores more points than any other type of shot.

2. The
kill shot, properly executed, is usually unreturnable. The ball is close

to the floor, aimed at the bottom of the front wall. The player is in a crouching

position as the ball is hit. The ball should be hit low so that it comes off

the front wall with such a low bounce that there is no chance for the opponent

to return it.

3. The
ceiling shot is hit off the ceiling, close to the front wall. This is a

defensive shot used to move an opponent out of the front court. The ceiling

is considered the fifth wall in handball, as this shot proves. A good ceiling

shot will often fluster and confuse an opponent who cannot handle a high

overhand stroke.


Handball is played on various types of courts, including

those with one, three and four walls. The

most common type of court is the four-wall court,

although such a court actually has five hitting surfaces

if one counts the ceiling.

The regulation handball court is 20 feet wide and 40 feet long. The front wall is 20 feet

high while the back wall is at least 12 feet high. The service zone runs the width of the

court and the service line is 15 feet from the front wall.

The rubber ball used during the game weighs only two ounces. Although it is small and

soft, the ball can sting the player
s hand each time it rebounds from the wall. As a result,

all serious handball players wear deerskin or goatskin handball gloves while playing.


Although handball does not receive the publicity in the popular press enjoyed by football

or basketball, over 3,000,000 players are registered worldwide with the International

Handball Association. Add to this figure the number of unregistered people who

play handball regularly at health clubs and other facilities and you will begin to understand

just how popular this sport really is.

Team handball is an Olympic sport. Once an 11-man-per-side sport, it evolved into a 7-

man-per-side sport between 1948 (when it was dropped from the Olympic roster) and

1972 (when it was reinstated). In 1976, women
s team handball was instituted. Team

Handball was a part of the program at the 2000 Summer Olympics in Sydney, Australia.

Handball - Men
s Team Handball Medal Results, 2000 Olympics:

Medal Country

Gold Russia

Silver Sweden

Bronze Spain

Handball - Women
s Team Handball Medal Results, 2000 Olympics:

Medal Country

Gold Denmark

Silver Hungary

Bronze Norway

Handball is also a popluar sport in many colleges in North America. It is played both as

a team sport and an individual sport. It has become more popular recently as new health

clubs include handball courts to attract customers.

Handball is an exciting game that is enjoyed all over the world. Give it a try if you

t already. Find out more details about the 2000 Olympic competition on the internet:

http://www.abc.net.au/olympics/results/. The 2004 Olympics will be held in Greece. Keep

track of the news at their website: http://www.athens.olympic.org/en/


The following questions will help you to have a greater appreciation and understanding

of handball. Write your answers in the spaces below the questions. If there is not enough

room, write on the backs of these sheets. Be neat, spell correctly, and write in complete


1. What are some of the physical benefits to be derived from handball?

2. On what types of courts can handball be played? What is the most common type?

3. What is the object of any game of handball?

4. Summarize the five rules of the game of handball.

5. Who always wins a game of handball?

6. True or False: Skilled hand work is enough to win any game of handball. Explain

your answer.

7. Name and describe the three basic strokes used in handball. Which of the three is

considered most important?

8. What are the three basic types of shots in handball? Name and briefly describe

each one.

9. Why is learning to strategize such an important skill in handball?

10. Why does a winning handball player need to develop both concentration and control?

Short Answer Questions:

1. Number of basic strokes

2. It is often difficult for an experience player to play this type of player

3. Only this player can score points

4. He built the first US handball court in 1886

5. A three person game

6. This is the type of bounce with a kill shot

7. Stroke that uses the palm and cupped fingers

8. This shot is usually unreturnable

9. This shot goes by the opponent

10. Number of faults required for server to lose the serve

11. What handball was called in Spain in the 15th century

12. Times a ball can hit the floor before it must be returned

13. Maximum number of players involved in a game

14. Most important stroke in handball

15. This shot is hit off the fifth wall

16. As important as the hands in handball

17. Width in feet of a handball court

18. This is where handball originated

19. When four people are involved in a game it is called a _____ game

20. The ceiling is considered the ____ wall