Know the Game: Handball


    Know the Game: Handball

    Handball is a fast-flowing game. The aim is to is to throw the ball into the opponent’s goal as many times as possible within two 30-minute periods of play. It requires quick thinking and lightning reflexes as players are only allowed three steps with the ball, with a three second time limit.

    The players work together, passing and dribbling the ball up the court in an attempt to score a goal. The fast pace of the game results in many shots being taken, and it is not unusual for more than 20 goals per side to be scored in game. To ensure everything runs smoothly, there are 4 officials per match, the timekeeper, scorekeeper and two referees who stay close to the action.

    The sport requires strength, speed and agility and has been compared to being a cross between football and basketball, although the players (other than the goalkeeper) are not permitted to kick the ball.

    Handball is often referred to as Olympic handball so as not to be confused with other completely different versions of ‘handball’ which involve the use of hitting a small ball with the hand in a walled court.


    A competitive game consists of equal 30-minute halves with a 10-15 minute break. A team cannot keep possession of the ball without attempting to attack. The start is awarded to the team that wins the coin toss. A match begins with both teams in their own half. A goal can be scored from any type of throw. A player can run with the ball for three steps maximum. A player can hold a ball for up to three seconds maximum. A player can continuously dribble, providing they bounce the ball. A player can take three steps maximum before and after dribbling (no 'double dribble'). Players are not able to endanger an opponent with the ball. Players are not permitted to pull, hit or punch the ball out of the hands of an opponent. Players cannot make contact with the ball below the knee. Players cannot dive on the floor to regain a loose ball. A player is allowed to use the torso of the body to obstruct an opponent with or without the ball. A player cannot outstretch arms or legs to obstruct, push, hold, trip or hit. An attacking player is not allowed to charge into a defensive player. A throw-in is awarded when the ball goes out of bounds and the thrower must place one foot on the sideline to execute the throw. All opposing players must stay 3 m away from the throw-in. All minor fouls or violations are penalised with the awarding of a free-throw which is taken at the place of infringement.

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