How to play

Handball is a high-octane, physical contact sport that shares many of its main properties with football and basketball – only played much, much faster.

There are a few different types of handball: court, beach, mini, and wheelchair. On this specific page, we will showcase the most popular version which is court / indoor handball. 30 million people play handball around the world.

Teams of seven-a-side – six outfield players and a goalkeeper – play on indoor courts (40m by 20m) with the aim of moving the ball by hand between teammates and hurling it into a goal similar to those used in hockey. It’s not uncommon to see 50 goals in a single 60-minute match.

Players pass or dribble, bouncing the ball as they run – with three steps permitted in between each bounce – to move upfield, though outfield players are barred from the semi-circle around each goal.

This leads to some spectacular shots at goal, as a player in mid-air is not deemed to have entered the area until he or she hits the ground.

Players thus throw themselves forward into the semi-circle, only releasing the throw directly prior to impact. In a physical sport, defenders are allowed to block their opponents, with or without the ball, so long as they don’t use hands, arms, or legs to do so.

Players can control the ball with any body part above the knee and are allowed to stand still with the ball only for three seconds, though opponents can’t deliberately grab or punch the ball out of another player’s hand.



  • Left and right wingman. These typically are fast players who excel at ball control and wide jumps from the outside of the goal perimeter to get into a better shooting angle at the goal. Teams usually try to occupy the left position with a right-handed player and vice versa.
  • Left and right backcourt. Goal attempts by these players are typically made by jumping high and shooting over the defenders. Thus, it is usually advantageous to have tall players with a powerful shot for these positions.
  • Centre backcourt. A player with experience is preferred for this position who acts as a playmaker and the handball equivalent of a basketball point guard.
  • Pivot (left and right, if applicable). This player tends to intermingle with the defense, setting picks and attempting to disrupt the defense’s formation. This position requires the least jumping skills, but ball control and physical strength are an advantage.

Sometimes, the offense uses formations with two pivot players.


There are many variations in defensive formations. Usually, they are described as n+m formations, where n is the number of players defending at the goal line and m the number of players defending more offensive. Exceptions are the 3:2:1 defense and n+m formation (e.g. 5+1), where m players defend some offensive player in man coverage (instead of the usual zone coverage).

  • Far left and far right. The opponents of the wingmen.
  • Half left and half right. The opponents of the left and right backcourts.
  • Back center (left and right). Opponent of the pivot.
  • Front center. Opponent of the center backcourt, may also be set against another specific backcourt player.