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How to play handball

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Handball is one of the most unappreciated sports, especially in the United States. It is a staple in gym classes and colleges, but most kids don't grow up with the desire to pursue it. Many Americans may not know this, but team handball is a hugely popular international sport. Handball is like a combination of hockey and basketball. The goal is to pass the ball around until a player takes a shot on goal. However, there is a lot more to handball than that. Here is a guide to handball.


Handball can be traced back to medieval times. However, modern handball was established in Europe in the late 1800's. Holger Nielson designed the rules in 1898. Rules evolved over the next 25 years, and the first international game was played in 1925. Outdoor handball was first played at the 1936 Summer Olympics. The Men's Handball Championships were first played in 1938. The sports saw a resurgence in the 1970's when the indoor version was established at the 1972 Olympics. Handball for women was added to the 1976 Olympics


The objective is to score as many goals as possible. The number of players and length of the game varies depending on skill levels, but international team handball features 7 players each. There are 2 periods lasting 30 minutes each. A typical handball court is 130 by 66 feet with goals at each end. Each goal is protected by a crease in which only the goalie can stand. The crease in handball is much larger than in hockey. A player can't shoot the ball when they are standing in the crease. Players can touch the ball with any part of their body from the knees up. Players can hold the ball for up to 3 seconds or take 3 steps before they have to shoot, pass, or dribble.

Unlike soccer, there are unlimited substitutions. Players can rotate in and out as frequently as the coach wants. Contact is allowed, however there are limits. It can't be overly aggressive, and the player must be directly in front of the player he contacts. Failure to adhere to the rules leads to penalties. Similar to soccer, players are carded for penalties. A red card means they are ejected and the team is subjected to a two minute penalty.

International Competition

Like soccer, different continents have competitive bodies for handball. These bodies are instrumental in qualifying for the championship events. Currently, the Men's Handball Championship is held every 2 years. 24 teams qualify for the tournament. They are divided in to 6 groups. The top 3 from each group advance to the next round. Those 12 teams are divided in to 2 groups, with the top 2 teams in those groups advancing to the semifinals. From there, the semifinal winners meet for the championship. European nations dominate handball. There have only been 2 instances where a non-European team reached the semifinals.


International Handball Federation

Handball Rules

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