Handball is one of the simplest of the sports, both to understand as a spectator and tolearn 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.
HISTORY OF THE GAME
Handball was first played in ancient Rome. In
fifteenth century Spain and France, it wasplayed as “pelota.” It was called “fives” in
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 “handball” in 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.
HOW THE GAME IS PLAYED
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 ofthe ball around the court. With practice, it becomes easier to anticipate an opponent’s
Concentration is a second major ingredient for success on the handball court. A handballplayer’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 one’s temper if a shot is missed.
FOOTWORKA player’s 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.The overhand stroke in handball closely resembles a tennis overhand. Butinstead of a racquet hitting a tennis ball, the handball player’s 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 itcrosses the mid-line of the player’s body. The player’s
weight shifts from the back foot to the front foot, withthe body kept low. The swing is parallel to the floor.
The contact point with the ball is at the knee.The 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 that—it passes by the opponent. When an opponent
is in front of a player, the player with the ball hits the ball to the frontwall 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
EQUIPMENT AND CLOTHING
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 surfacesif 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 andsoft, 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.
HANDBALL NOTES AND NEWS
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) and1972 (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:
Bronze SpainHandball - Women’s Team Handball Medal Results, 2000 Olympics:
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 youhaven’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. Keeptrack of the news at their website: http://www.athens.olympic.org/en/
WHAT TO DO
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
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
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