History & Rules Of the Game
Team Handball originated in Europe in the1900s and recognizes over 140 countries as members of the
International Handball Federation (IHF). Handball first appeared in the Olympics in the 1936 Berlin Games as
an outdoor sport, with 11 players on a side. It was not played again at the Olympic games until 1972, where it
was played indoors with 7 players on each side. Women’s handball was added to the Olympic Games in
Simplified Rules of the Game
1. Object of the Game
Handball combines the elements of soccer and basketball, as six players move the ball down a floor that is
larger than a basketball court and try to score by throwing the ball past a goalkeeper into the net. A successful
scoring attempt results in the award of a single point. Typical final scores in this action-packed game run in
the mid twenties.
A regulation game is played in 30 minute halves with one team timeout per half. A coin toss determines which
team starts the game with a throw-off. The clock stops only for team timeouts, injuries, and at the referee’s
2. Field of Play
The court is slightly larger than a basketball court. The most significant line on the court is the 6-meter line or
goal area line. Only the goalie is allowed inside the goal area. Players may jump into the goal area if they
release the ball before landing in the area. The 9-meter line, or free throw line, is used for minor penalties,
while the 7-meter line, or penalty line, is used for penalty shots, much like penalty kicks in soccer.
A versatile game, team handball can be played indoors in the gym, outdoors on the grass, on a paved area or
on the beach.
3. The Goal
An official size goal measures 2 meters high (6’7”) and three meters wide (9’10”). The net is one meter deep
at the base of the goal.
4. The Ball
A handball is made of leather and is about the size of a large cantaloupe. It varies in size and weight
according to the group playing. The ball for men weighs 15-17 oz. and is 23-24" in circumference. Women
and juniors use a smaller ball weighing 12-14 oz. and 21-22" in circumference. Youth use smaller varieties of
balls for mini-handball.
A game is played between two teams. Seven players on each team are allowed on the court at the same time
(6 court players and 1 goalie). Unlimited substitution is allowed. Substitutes may enter the game at any time
through their own substitution area as long as the players they are replacing have left the court.
6. Playing the ball
Players are allowed to:
- Dribble the ball for an unlimited amount of time
- Run with the ball for up to three steps before and after dribbles
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- Hold the ball without moving for three seconds.
Players are not allowed to:
- Endanger an opponent with the ball
- Pull, hit, or punch the ball out of the hands of an opponent
- Contact the ball below the knees
Free-Throw – for a minor foul or violation, a free throw is awarded to the opponents at the exact spot it took
place. If the foul occurs between the goal area line and the 9 meter line, the throw is taken from the nearest
point outside the 9-meter line. All players on the team taking a free-throw must be outside the 9-meter line.
Opponents must be 3 meters away from the ball when the throw is taken.
7-Meter Penalty Shot is awarded when
- A foul destroys a clear chance to score a goal
- The goalie carries the ball back into the goalie area
- A court player intentionally plays the ball to his or her own goalie in the goal area and the goalie
touches the ball
All players must be outside the free-throw line when the throw is taken. The player taking the throw has 3
seconds to shoot after the referee whistles. Any player may take the 7-meter throw.
These are fouls that require more punishment than just a free-throw. “Actions” directed mainly at the opponent
and not the ball are punished progressively (actions consist of reaching around, holding, pushing, hitting,
tripping, or jumping into opponent).
a Warnings (yellow card) – referee gives only one warning to a player for rule violations and a total of 3
to a team. Exceeding limits results in a 2-minute suspension.
b 2-minute suspension – Awarded for serious or repeated rule violations, unsportsmanlike conduct and
c Disqualification (red card) – awarded after three 2-minute suspensions have been issued; the
disqualified player must leave both the court and bench but the team may replace the player after the
2-minute suspension expires.
d Exclusion is awarded for assault; the excluded player’s team continues short one player for the rest of
Team handball, also called Olympic handball, is played between two teams of 7 players who try to throw or
hit an inflated ball into a goal at either end of a rectangular playing area while preventing their opponents from
doing so. A game consists of two 30-minute halves with an intermission, and players wear no protective
equipment. The ball is moved by passing, dribbling, or hitting it with any part of the body above the knee. In
handball, only the goalkeeper may kick the ball. Running more than three steps with the ball and holding it
longer than three seconds are illegal.
Attacking players must take their shots at goal from outside an arc marked on the playing surface, within
which only the defending goalkeeper may play. Free throws (usually passes to a teammate) are awarded for
minor violations of rules and taken from the spot of the violation or from a line a short distance outside the
goal area, or circle. Penalty throws at goal are awarded for more serious infractions and are taken from a
penalty mark just outside the circle and directly in front of the goal.
The two principal forms of team handball differ in number of players and dimensions of the field. The ball used
in both is 58–60 cm (about 23–24 inches) in circumference and weighs 425–475 grams (15–17 ounces);
women and younger players use a smaller ball. For the seven-man game, usually played indoors, the court is
40 metres (131.2 feet) long and 20 metres (65.6 feet) wide, the goal cage is 2 metres (6.5 feet) high and 3
metres (9.8 feet) wide, and the goal-area line is 6 metres (19.7 feet) from the centre of the goal. Handball in
its present form developed in Europe in the 1920s from earlier games. The game, in its 11-man outdoor
version, first appeared at the Olympics in 1936. It was subsequently dropped from the Olympics but returned
as the 7-man indoor game in 1972. Women’s team handball became an Olympic sport in 1976. The
Fédération Internationale de Handball is the world governing body.
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