Main Page | See live article | Alphabetical index


Handball is the name of two different sports.

American handball

American (or Court) handball played against one or more walls has origins in pre-Hispanic central America (about
1500 BC) and Scotland/Ireland ca 1500 AD. It is similar to (and in fact preceded) Racquetball and Squash; Jai alai is also thought to have evolved from handball. It is played on a court forty feet long by twenty feet wide with either a single (front) wall, three walls, or in a fully enclosed four-wall. It may be played singles (one player, two teams), doubles, or "cutthroat" (three players rotating one-against-two). The ball, 2.3 oz, 1 7/8 inches (slightly smaller and harder than a racquetball), is hit with the gloved palm. The ball is "served" by one team, off the front wall. The ball must hit the front wall first; it may then hit only one side wall; the serve must pass the service line before the first bounce. It may be hit directly, or may bounce off the floor once before being "returned". The return must either hit the front wall directly, or may be hit off the back wall to the front wall (without hitting the ceiling or another wall).

Handball is significantly more physically demanding than racquetball. One well-known American handball player in the 1970s was "Sweaty Freddy". Ironically, it has lost popularity due to both racquetball's rise (as players migrated) and fall (as clubs lost courts).


Team handball

European Team (or Field) handball is similar to Association football (
soccer) and may have originated in either Germany, or earlier in Greece. It is played on a field forty meters long by twenty meters wide with a dividing line in the middle and a goal in the center of either end. The goal is to throw the ball into the goal of the opposing team. The ball, somewhat smaller than a (soccer) football, is transported by bouncing it between hands and floor (much as in basketball). The goals are surrounded by a close to semicircular line which no player, save the defending goalkeeper, may take a step inside. If a player should find himself inside the goal perimeter he must immediately take the most direct path out of it.

The game is quite fast and includes much contact as the defenders tries to bodily stop the attackers from approaching the goal.

International tournaments