Handball is a team sport aiming at throwing the ball into the goal of the opponent team. The team that scores more goals wins. Each team is made up of 12 players: six outfield players, a goalkeeper and 5 substitute players. A match can be played only if 5 players are on field at the beginning of the match, whereas they may be even less during the game. A goalkeeper cannot replace a player, whereas he/she may be replaced by any player. A standard match consists of two halves of 30 minutes (for youths the length of the halves is reduced: 25 minutes at ages 12 to 16, and 20 minutes at ages 8 to 12) with an interval of 10 minutes. Sometimes, if a match ends in a draw after regular time there are two overtimes, each consisting of two straight 5-minute periods. Each team may call one team timeout per period which lasts 1 minute. Substitution of players can be done in any number and at any time during game play. An exchange takes place over the substitution line and only after that the replaced player has left the field of play. Each faulty substitution is sanctioned with a free-throw and the offending player is excluded from the game for 2 minutes.
The throw-off is taken by the team that wins the coin toss and chooses to start the game with the ball. The other team chooses the court. A throw-off takes place from the centre of the court. Each team must be in its own half of the court with the defence 3 metres away from the thrower.
Field players are allowed to touch the ball with any part of their bodies, with the exception of the feet. They must either shoot, pass, stop or dribble the ball. A player may dribble as many times as they want, but he/she may stand stationary for only 3 seconds without passing or dribbling it and they may take only 3 steps while holding the ball (he/she can run 3 steps, 1 dribble and 3 steps). A player cannot pass the ball to his/her goalkeeper when he/she is in the goal area and he/she is not allowed to dive for a ball that is rolling on the ground.
Only the goalkeepers are allowed to move freely within the goal perimeter. Within the zone, they are allowed to touch the ball with all parts of their bodies. Outside this zone, he/she may participate in the normal play of their teammates. If a defensive player enters the goal area to defend it, a free throw is awarded. The 9-metre line is also used for minor penalties. A striker entering the goal area with any part of the body will result in a penalty shot. If the player enters the area after throwing the ball, the infringement is not punished.
When marking an opponent, a player cannot hold, push, hit, trip him/her, impede his/her counterattack and steal the ball from his/her hand and throwing it. A player can block another with his/her upper body and take the ball out the opponent’s hand using one open hand only.
For a minor foul or violation, a free throw is awarded to the opponent at the exact spot where it took place. If the foul or violation occurs between the goal area line and the 9-metre line, the throw is taken from the nearest spot outside the 9-metre line.
Actions directed mainly at the opponent and not the ball are subject to a warning (yellow card). If the player repeats the offence, he is suspended for 2 minutes. A player may receive a red card directly for particularly rough penalties. A red card results in an ejection from the game.
The 7-meter throw (penalty kick) is awarded when a player is guilty of serious foul play and a court player intentionally plays the ball to his/her own goalie in the goal area. The throw is taken one foot behind the 7 metre line.
- Receiving is the set of movements through which a player gains possession of the ball. It consists of three phases:
- preparatory phase, when the player prepares to receive the ball by stretching the upper limbs and flexing the back of his/her hands, with thumbs and index fingers making a right angle with each other;
- ball possession, when the player’s thumbs are tighten on the ball facilitating closing movement of the other fingers;
- amortizing, when the player flexes his/her arms towards his/her upper body to cushion the speed of the ball.
- in place, a flexion and extension of the forearm at the elbow joint, the hand leaning open on the ball, finger-wide, while pushing down with wrist flexion so as to provide the necessary force on the ball to bounce back;
- moving, pushing the ball firmly down and forward, to run faster. It is used during the counterattack and when a player needs to wait until teammates have taken up position.
- Standing shot: to achieve the necessary thrust, the player takes a three steps run-up. The first step is taken right after receiving the ball. The ball is not stopped at the chest level: the player holds it with both hands and brings it towards the shooting shoulder. Then the run-up movement begins and the arm holding the ball is stretched back. The second step coincides with the throw stance and the player’s left shoulder and left hip are directed into the shot direction. The arm and hand holding the ball end the throw movement during the last step.
- Jump shot: the run-up is similar to that of the standing shot, but the last step works as a support for the jump and the shot is taken in the air. The upthrust is given by the supporting leg that pushes off, helped by the thrust of the other bending leg. During the elevation, the upper body is turned towards the shooting arm, which is in a backward position.
Goalkeeper: this is a fast, coordinated player with strong nerves and a strong sense of position. He/she should be tall.
Left and right wingman: this is usually a fast player, who excels at ball control and wide jumps.
Left and right backcourt: he/she should be tall, with powerful limbs, and able to score goals also from long distances.
Centre backcourt: he/she acts as playmaker, with a good game strategy and great shooting accuracy.
Pivot: this position requires great shooting skills; he/she should also have physical strength.