Handball Rules

Understanding the handball rules and regulations is key to enjoying the game as a player or spectator.

Handball is an exciting Olympic team sport that is played indoors between two teams of 7 players each. The objective is to score goals by throwing the ball past the goalkeeper into the opponent’s goal.

Handball first originated in Northern Europe in the late 19th century and has grown into one of the most popular sports worldwide with around 19 million players.

Field and Equipment

A handball match takes place on a 40m x 20m indoor court divided into two halves by a center line and goal lines at each end. The goals are surrounded by a near-semicircular 6m-goal area and a broken free-throw line 9m from goal. Goals measure 3m across and 2m high.

The official handball is made of leather or a synthetic material, weighs 325-375g and has a 58-60cm circumference for men and 54-56cm for women. Players wear athletic shoes and shorts or swimsuits. The goalkeeper wears a different colored shirt.

Handball Rules : Gameplay Rules

Handball follows a simple principle – teams pass a ball using their hands with the aim of throwing it into the opponent’s goal. However, there are specific Handball rules that regulate gameplay:

  • A match consists of two 30-minute halves with a 10-minute halftime break. The clock is stopped for injuries, timeouts, penalties etc.
  • Each team can have a maximum of 7 players on court – 6 court players and 1 goalkeeper. Unlimited substitutions are allowed.
  • Players can take a maximum of 3 steps while holding the ball. The ball must then be dribbled or passed.
  • The ball can be passed, thrown, caught, dribbled, rolled or hit in any direction by hand. Players cannot touch the ball with their feet or legs below the knee unless it’s accidental.
  • Defending players can steal the ball from opponents through intercepting passes, tackling or blocking shots. Physical contact is allowed as long as it isn’t excessive.
  • If the ball goes out-of-bounds, possession is awarded to the opposing team for a throw-in.
  • Only the goalkeeper can enter the goal area and touch the ball. He can move freely within it.
  • Goalkeepers can leave the goal area at any time and participate in general play.

Understanding these core rules forms a solid base for learning handball gameplay. Let’s look at scoring and penalties next.

Scoring and Match Procedures

  • A goal is scored when the entire ball crosses the goal line between the goal posts and under the crossbar. A goal awards 1 point.
  • If the goalkeeper blocks a 7m penalty shot, the attacking team is awarded a free throw.
  • If the score is tied after full time, two 5-minute golden goal periods are played. The first team to score wins. If still tied, 5 players from each team take alternate penalty shots until there is a winner.
  • A jump ball situation occurs when two opponents gain possession simultaneously. The referee tosses up the ball between them to restart play.

There are various match procedures that are followed:

  • A coin toss decides which team starts with possession at the beginning of a game.
  • Substitutions can be made any time during play without notifying the referee. Players enter and exit through their own substitution areas.
  • Team timeouts of 1 minute can be called once per half per team.
  • The referees can penalize rule infractions with free throws, 7m penalty throws or disqualifications. Yellow and red cards are used.
  • Teams switch sides between halves. Bench locations are also changed.

Following proper match protocols leads to an orderly game for players and officials. We’ll look at some important advanced rules and tactics next.

Advanced Handball Rules and Strategies

There are some additional handball rules and strategic aspects:

  • The attacking team has only 3 seconds to shoot the ball after gaining possession. This prevents excessive passive play.
  • Defensive players can disrupt passes, shots and dribbles but must be cautious not to make contact with the attacker’s head or neck.
  • Fast breaks can catch the opposition off guard and lead to easy scoring opportunities.
  • Picking or screening defenders is an effective offensive tactic to clear throwing angles or spaces.
  • Varied throw types like jump shots, spin shots and bounce passes makes a shooter unpredictable.
  • Playing aggressively on defense can force errors and steals but also leads to fouls if not controlled.
  • Goalkeepers must position themselves carefully based on the shooter’s position and have good reaction skills.
  • Effective use of substitutions keeps fresh players on court and specialized positions like wingers and circle runners can exploit defenses.

Mastering advanced handball strategies takes considerable practice and game experience. Top players and teams know how to judiciously combine fundamental skills with intelligent tactics.

10 Essential Facts About Handball Rules

Handball is a thrilling team sport played between two teams of seven players on an indoor court. The fast-paced game involves passing, dribbling, jumping, throwing, defending and scoring goals. Here are 10 key facts about handball rules that govern gameplay:

  1. Indoor Court Dimensions – A handball court measures 40 x 20 meters and is divided into two halves by a center line. It has goal lines at each end with 6-meter goalkeeper areas and 9-meter free-throw lines. Goals are 3 meters wide and 2 meters high.
  2. Ball Specifications – The handball is made of leather or synthetic material. It weighs 325-375 grams and has a circumference of 58-60 cm for men and 54-56 cm for women. The ball can be passed, thrown, rolled, dribbled or hit by hand in any direction.
  3. Teams and Substitutions – Each team has up to 7 players on court – 1 goalkeeper and 6 court players. Unlimited substitutions are allowed at any point during the game without notifying officials.
  4. Duration of Play – Regulation play consists of two 30-minute halves with a 10-minute halftime break. The clock stops frequently for time-outs, injuries, penalties etc. If tied, extra 5-minute periods are played until a winner emerges.
  5. Possession and Movement – Players can take 3 steps maximum while holding the ball. It must then be dribbled, shot or passed. Defensive players can intercept and steal the ball. Physical contact is permitted as long as it isn’t excessive.
  6. Scoring – A goal is scored when the entire ball fully crosses the goal line. This awards 1 point. Goalkeepers can freely move and participate in general play outside the 6-meter goal area where only they are allowed.
  7. Infringements and Penalties – Referees punish illegal actions like goal area violations, passive play, misconduct etc. with free throws, 7-meter throws or yellow/red cards. Disqualified players can be substituted after 2 minutes.
  8. Throw-offs and Throw-ins – Jump balls restart play after simultaneous possessions. Possession for throw-ins is awarded when the ball goes out of bounds. All defensive players must be at least 3 meters away.
  9. Goalkeeper Rules – Goalkeepers wear different colored shirts and can touch the ball only within the goal area. If they save a 7-meter penalty shot, the attacking team gets a free throw.
  10. Winning Team – The team that scores more goals wins the game. Tied scores lead to extra periods of golden goal overtime. If still tied, 5 alternating penalty shots per team decide the winner.

By learning these essential handball rules governing court dimensions, equipment, scoring, penalties, goalkeepers, possession, substitutions and overall play, both beginners and experienced players can have an excellent grasp of the game. Handball is one of the most entertaining indoor team sports!


Handball is played by over 19 million enthusiasts worldwide as a fun recreational team sport and thrilling Olympic contest. The basic rules allow for free-flowing dynamic gameplay with a heavy emphasis on skillful handling of the ball. Players require good all-round athletic capabilities like speed, agility, coordination, jumping power, endurance and technical skills. Mastering advanced strategies also allows teams and players to gain an extra competitive edge. With its exciting and fast-paced action, handball continues to grow as a global sport.

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