Julie Otzma

Julie Otzma

Greetings! I am Julie Otzma, the driving force behind HandballInsider.com, a passionate endeavor dedicated to providing a wealth of handball information.

Handball Rules: A Comprehensive Guide to the Exciting Game


Handball is a fast-paced and exhilarating team sport that combines elements of soccer, basketball, and hockey. Played in over 180 countries, it offers both physical and strategic challenges for athletes of all ages. In this comprehensive guide, we will explore the rules and regulations of handball, providing valuable insights for beginners and enthusiasts alike.

What is handball and how is it played?

Handball is a fast-paced team sport that combines elements of basketball, soccer, and hockey. Played on an indoor court, the objective is to score goals by throwing the ball into the opponent’s net. The game is played with two teams, each consisting of seven players, including one goalkeeper.

Players pass the ball using their hands, and they can dribble, shoot, or pass to teammates to create scoring opportunities. The team that scores the most goals within the allotted time wins the game. Handball requires agility, coordination, teamwork, and strategic thinking, making it an exhilarating and action-packed sport.

What are the dimensions of a handball court?

A standard handball court measures 40 meters in length and 20 meters in width. The playing area is divided into two halves by a halfway line, and each half further contains a goal area, extending 6 meters from the goal line, and a 9-meter line that marks the free-throw line.

The goal posts are placed in the center of each goal line and measure 3 meters in width and 2 meters in height. The dimensions of the court are designed to ensure fair and competitive gameplay, allowing players ample space to showcase their skills and strategies.

How many players are there in a handball team?

Handball player dribbling with precision

A handball team consists of seven players on the court at a time, including one goalkeeper. The positions of the other six players are flexible and can vary based on team strategy and tactics. Common positions include a center back, left back, right back, left-wing, right-wing, and pivot.

Each player has specific responsibilities and contributes to both the offensive and defensive aspects of the game. Team composition and coordination are crucial for successful gameplay, as players work together to create scoring opportunities and prevent the opposing team from scoring.

What are the basic handball rules?

The basic rules of handball include:

  1. Players must pass, shoot, or dribble the ball using their hands.
  2. Dribbling is allowed for up to three steps or three seconds.
  3. Players cannot touch the ball with their feet or legs intentionally.
  4. Physical contact is allowed but must be within the boundaries of fair play.
  5. The ball must not be held for longer than three seconds.
  6. Players cannot dive or jump into opponents.
  7. Out-of-bounds results in a throw-in for the opposing team.
  8. Goals are scored when the ball crosses the goal line within the goalposts.

These fundamental rules ensure fair play, maintain the flow of the game, and promote an exciting and dynamic sporting experience.

How is the game of handball divided into periods?

A handball game is divided into two halves, each typically lasting 30 minutes at the professional level. There is a halftime break of approximately 10 minutes between the halves. During each half, teams aim to score goals while defending their net. The clock is stopped during timeouts, player injuries, and other game interruptions.

If the game ends in a tie, extra time or a penalty shootout may be used to determine the winner in certain competitions. The division of the game into periods ensures fairness and allows teams to strategize and make adjustments throughout the match.

Handball court with boundary markings

Can a player touch the ball with their feet in handball?

No, players are not allowed to intentionally touch the ball with their feet or legs in handball. Handball is primarily played using the hands and requires players to pass, shoot, and dribble the ball using their hand skills.

The rules explicitly prohibit the use of the feet or legs to manipulate the ball intentionally. However, unintentional contact with the ball may occur during the fast-paced nature of the game, and referees use their judgment to determine if such contact is accidental or intentional.

Are there restrictions on player movement in handball?

In handball, players have freedom of movement within the boundaries of fair play. However, certain rules restrict specific actions to maintain fair competition. For example, players must not hold, push, or trip opponents, and they cannot impede their movement or interfere with their shots or passes.

Additionally, players must respect the boundaries of the court and avoid stepping out of bounds during play. These restrictions ensure that the game is played safely and fairly, allowing equal opportunities for both teams.

Aspect Indoor Handball Beach Handball
Court Indoor court with specific dimensions Smaller court with sand surface
Team Size 7 players per team 4 players per team
Playing Surface Hardwood or synthetic flooring Sand
Game Duration 2 halves of 30 minutes each 2 halves of 10 minutes each
Goalkeeper One designated goalkeeper per team No specific goalkeeper position


What is considered a foul in handball?

In handball, a foul occurs when a player violates the rules of the game. Common fouls include:

1. Holding, pushing, or tripping opponents.
2. Obstructing or impeding the movement of opponents.
3. Intentionally touching the ball with the feet or legs.
4. Striking or hitting opponents.
5. Diving or jumping into opponents.
6. Delaying the game intentionally.
7. Using unfair tactics to gain an advantage.

When a foul is committed, the opposing team is awarded a free throw or penalty, depending on the severity of the offense. Fouls are closely monitored by referees to ensure fair play and maintain the integrity of the game.

What happens when a player commits a foul in handball?

When a player commits a foul in handball, the opposing team is awarded a free throw or penalty, depending on the situation and severity of the offense. A free throw is typically given for minor fouls, where the opposing team takes a throw from the spot where the foul occurred. The player who committed the foul may receive a warning or a yellow card from the referee, depending on the nature of the offense.

For more serious offenses, such as physical aggression or intentional fouls, a penalty is awarded. In a penalty situation, the fouled player takes a shot from the 7-meter line, facing only the goalkeeper. The penalty shot provides an opportunity for the attacking team to score a goal without any defensive interference. Penalties can significantly impact the outcome of the game and serve as a deterrent against unsportsmanlike conduct.

How are penalties awarded in handball?

Penalties in handball are awarded for serious fouls or intentional rule violations. When a penalty is given, the fouled player from the attacking team takes a direct shot at the goal from the 7-meter line, facing only the goalkeeper. This penalty shot allows the attacking team an advantageous scoring opportunity, as there are no defenders between the shooter and the goal.

The goalkeeper’s task is to try to block the shot and prevent a goal. Penalties are intense and suspenseful moments in handball, often influencing the momentum of the game.

Can a player be disqualified from a handball match?

Yes, a player can be disqualified from a handball match for severe rule violations or repeated fouls. When a player receives three suspensions during a match, either through yellow or blue cards, they are shown a red card and must leave the field.

Disqualification means that the player cannot return to the game, and their team must continue playing with one fewer player. Disqualifications are enforced to maintain fair play, discourage unsportsmanlike behavior, and ensure the safety and integrity of the game.

Player executing a powerful throw

Are there specific rules for goalkeepers in handball?

Yes, there are specific rules for goalkeepers in handball. The goalkeeper is the only player allowed to use their feet and legs within the goal area. They can block shots using any part of their body, including their hands, arms, and legs. Goalkeepers have a crucial role in defending the goal and preventing the opposing team from scoring.

They require specialized training and skills to anticipate and react to shots effectively. Additionally, goalkeepers are often involved in initiating fast breaks and distributing the ball to their teammates to launch counter-attacks.

What is the three-step rule in handball?

The three-step rule in handball states that players are allowed to take a maximum of three steps while holding the ball before they must either pass, shoot, or dribble. This rule prevents players from running long distances with the ball and encourages quick ball movement and teamwork.

After the third step, players must release the ball to a teammate or perform a shot at the goal. If a player exceeds the three-step limit, it results in a turnover, and the opposing team gains possession.

Can a player block shots from the opponent in handball?

Yes, players can block shots from the opponent in handball. When an opposing player attempts a shot, defenders can jump and extend their arms to block or deflect the ball. This defensive maneuver aims to prevent goals and disrupt the opponent’s scoring attempts. Skillful shot blocking requires good timing, coordination, and anticipation.

However, players must avoid making contact with the shooter or committing fouls such as hitting or obstructing the opponent. Proper shot blocking is a valuable defensive technique that can turn the momentum of the game in favor of the defending team.

How is scoring done in handball?

Scoring in handball is achieved by throwing the ball into the opponent’s goal. When the ball completely crosses the goal line between the goalposts and beneath the crossbar, a goal is awarded. A successful goal counts as one point on the scoreboard for the attacking team.

The objective of the attacking team is to create scoring opportunities through passing, dribbling, and shooting techniques. Scoring requires accuracy, power, and strategic positioning to overcome the goalkeeper and defender. The team with the most goals at the end of the match is declared the winner, making scoring a pivotal aspect of handball.

With This All In Mind

Handball is an exciting and fast-paced team sport with a unique set of rules. Understanding the fundamentals of handball, such as gameplay, fouls, scoring, and player roles, is essential for players, coaches, and enthusiasts.

By following the rules and regulations, players can fully enjoy the dynamic and competitive nature of handball while ensuring fair play and sportsmanship. So, grab a ball, gather your team, and dive into the thrilling world of handball!

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