What is Olympic Handball?

HandballTeam handball, Olympic handball or European handball

Handball is a team sport in which two teams pass a ball by hand with the object to throw it into the goal of the other team. 

The team with the most goals after two periods of 30 minutes wins. Modern handball is usually played indoors, but outdoor variants exist in the forms of field handball and Czech handball (which were more common in the past) and beach handball (also called sandball).

American handball and Gaelic handball are completely different sports not related toTeam handball. 

The handball playing field is similar to an indoor soccer field. Two teams of seven players (six field players plus one goalkeeper) take the field and attempt to score points by putting the game ball into the opposing team’s goal.


In handling the ball, players are subject to the following restrictions:

  • After receiving the ball, players can only hold the ball for three seconds before passing, dribbling (similar to a basketball dribble), or shooting.
  • After receiving the ball, players can take up to three steps without dribbling. If players dribble, they may take an additional three steps.
  • Players that stop dribbling have three seconds to pass or shoot. They may take three additional steps during this time.
  • No players other than the defending goalkeeper are allowed within the goal line (within 6 meters of the goal).
  • Goalkeepers are allowed outside this line.

The official rules of the EHF (European Handball Federation) and the IHF (International Handball Federation) can be downloaded below.

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Rules Handbook Downloads

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The official Summer Olympics website is a great place to learn more about Handball.