Handball 101

Team Handball is an exciting and fast paced game played by six players and one goal keep a side that is a blend of about 40% soccer, 40% basketball, and 20% hockey. The game resembles soccer with the goal and goal keeper, the running clock and flow of the game, and the unlimited number of minor fouls and the yellow & red card system. The game resembles basketball with the size of the court as well as the "feel" of a court game and the dribble movement of the ball. The game resembles hockey with the penalty time for major fouls and resulting "two minute power play" similarity, the fluid substitution changes, and the physical contact allowed on the defensive side of the ball.

The Court:

Slightly larger than a basketball court, the dimensions of the court utilize the metric system:

Handball 101 - West Point Men's Team Handball

A diagram of the court which also covers some of the game's rules:

Handball 101 - West Point Men's Team Handball

The Players:
Much like basketball, it often helps to be big & tall to play handball, however it is not a requirement. There are positions that favor tall players, but much like with basketball, speed, quickness, & jumping ability can make a shorter player a good handballer. There are six field players and one goal keeper:
- Center Back: Analogous to a point guard in basketball, he initiates the offensive
- Left/Right Backs: Need to be tall or able to leap in order to shoot over the defense
- Left/Right Wings: Need to be quick and agile, able to cut, dive, & shoot with a sidearm motion
- Circle: He plays around the top of the 6m line & fights for position amongst the defense
- Goal Keeper: Needs to be quick & agile, but good instincts are most important

[Untitled][Untitled]Gio Jump Shot
Center Back Brian Walsh finishes a fast break at the '09 Nationals. Circle Jack Gibson demonstrates how to get a shot off inside the 6m
Left Back TJ Giordano shoots over defenders in the backcourt

A common defensive scheme, defense in blue, offense in red

-Two 30 minute halves with running clock. Time only stops for injuries requiring a trainer or referee administrative stoppages such as yellow or red card.
- Half time is usually 10 minutes and teams switch benches.
- The team sits on their defending half of the court and are allowed two 2-minute time out per half.
- Most 1-3 day US tournaments use 25-minute halves with one 2-minute time out to speed up game play.
- The game favors the offense and is often high scoring, with scores usually in the 20s or 30s.
- Defense can can be very physical so long as defenders remain between the offense and the goal


1890s: Three early versions of handball are played in central Europe: Hazena by the Czechs, Handbold by the Danes and Torboll by the Germans.

Danish athlete Holger Nielson draws up first modern handball rules published them in 1906.

Germans Max Heiser, Karl Schelenz, and Erich Konigh update the modern rules

German PE instructor Carl Schelenz combines Handbold & Torboll and borrows dribbling from basketball as a means to advance the ball.

1925: First international game pits Germany against Belgium

1928: International Amateur Handball Federation formed

1928 & 1932: 11-man outdoor field version of handball is an Olympic demonstration sport.

Early 1930s: Handball introduced to the US. Because handball in America was already the name of an individual court game popular in the US, the sport is called fieldball or team handball.

1936: Field handball played at the Berlin Olympics, Germany wins gold medal. After this Olympics, handball is removed from competition.

Late 1930s: Scandinavian countries begin playing a 7-man in-door version of field handball. After WWII, it becomes the dominant form of the game.

1938: The World championships begin. Held every 3-4 years until 1995, after which they are held every two years.

1946: International Handball Federation formed

1956: European Handball Federation Champions League tournament begins

1972: Handball added as Olympic sport for men

1973: New York City Team Handball Club founded.

1976: LTC (Ret) James Thome, Sr. founds the Men's program at West Point.

1976: Women's Handball added to Olympic program

1978: West Point's women's program founded by LTC Thome.

More pages