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How to Play Handball - The Street Rules

Updated on July 6, 2010

Handball - My Experience

As a teenager I can remember the days of running to the park to go play handball. It was one my favorite things to do. Literally a hundred kids would meet at the park to play and we would be their from morning until dark. Yes sometimes you had a bit of a wait to get a turn (not usually in my case, I was a very good player), I just had to toot my own horn, but the times were filled with competition and laughter.

What is Handball?

For those of you who do not know what handball is, it is a sport similar to racquetball, except you play with your hands. The walls are very similar and some of the same rules apply, but in my opinion, handball is a bit harder due to the fact that you are using a part of your body to hit the ball, not a wooden racquet. There are two varieties of handball. There is "street handball" and there is "professional handball". The information I will be providing will be about the street version.

This is actually a picture of a handball court I use to play at in Brooklyn

Equipment Used

The Ball

There are two types of balls you can use. The one used for the street game is a ball a bit smaller than the size of a small apple, the ball is hard, but can be squeezed. If you are playing in a professional type competition the ball is about the size of a plum and is much harder.

If you are first starting out, or if you have been playing a while, and are still not use to the swollen hands, you should purchase a handball glove. These will protect your hands, eliminating the swelling and making you able to hit the ball harder.


You should wear comfortable clothing, but not anything to loose because it might get in the way of your swing and also make it harder to run around.

Protecting your eyes

You can purchase protective glasses, which is a good idea if you do not want to get a black eye, in the case of the ball hitting you in the face. Believe me, it does not feel pretty. It has happened to me.


You always want to wear sneakers. There is no way for you to run around in flip flops. You will definitely fall and hurt yourself. I had a friend who always insisted on wearing flip flops and he fell so many times, I cannot even count them. Some people never learn!

Have you ever played handball?

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Basic Rules

The game, requires great hand and eye coordination. You can play singles or doubles, like you would in racquetball or tennis. The court is set up with out boundaries, a short line and a long line. When serving you need to make sure that your ball passes the short line but does not go beyond the long line. It needs to be inside the side boundary lines as well. You may hit the ball with out it bouncing, or it is allowed to bounce once. Once the ball bounces once, if it is not hit, the turn is over.

In singles:

If you serve and the ball goes out of bounds, it is then the other players turn.

If you serve and the ball goes short or long, you have another chance. But you only get two chances. If you serve it short twice, long twice or a combination of one short and one long, the other player serves. Your turn is over.

When serving, if you hit the ball on the floor before it hits the wall, you automatically lose your turn, and the other player serves.


If you are playing with a partner, the rules are the same, except that you each have a chance. So if you are serving, and your play is over, your partner then goes. Once your partner's play is over, the other team now goes.

Returning the ball:

When returning the ball, it must hit the wall before it does the floor otherwise; the server will score a point. If you completely miss the ball, and the ball was served appropriately, you will also give the server a point. The play stops when the ball is either hit out of boundaries or the ball touches the floor before it touches the wall.

Basically, you never want the ball to hit the floor before the wall. In any case this is OUT!

Strategy of Handball

Handball requires great strategy; for you want your opponent to run around the court like crazy, and you want to hit the ball low enough, that they will have trouble retrieving it. If your ball hits the groove low on the wall in-between the wall and the floor that is AWESOME! Your opponent does not have much of a chance to pick that up. (We called that a “KILLER”) It is not impossible to retrieve that type of play, but it is very hard. And if you can master the skill of placing the ball exactly where you want it, you have a great chance of beating many people. Placing the ball is very important.

You need to keep an eye on where your opponent is at all times. The reason being, you want to place the ball somewhere where it would be hard for them to get to. The further away the ball is to them, the more of a chance they are going to miss. Even if they get it, by the time they reach the ball, the main goal at this point is just putting the ball on the wall, they have no time to try to place it where they want it.

Coney Island Handball Game

Handball Court

Power isn't Everything

Yes it is great to have power when hitting the ball, but power should not be played in every circumstance. For example if your opponent is way in the back near the long line because of a ball they just hit, you would then hit the ball very lightly, so the other player will have to run as fast as they can in order to get the ball back to the wall before the second bounce. If they happened to  get it, you should then hit the ball, not to hard, but highway over their head so the ball goes once again to the back of the court. This way, the player will have to once again run back to get it.


You get a point only if you are serving. If you win a play and you are not serving, then it is time for you to serve. Points are scored one at a time. We either played a game to 7, 11, or 21. Depending on how many people were waiting or if you were having any type of competition. A shut out game is if you are playing a game of 11 or 21 and you score 7 points without the other person scoring anything. We considered this an “automatic” win.

Handball Terms and Techniques


When serving, if you are able to get the ball within playing guidelines, and the opponent is not able to even touch the ball, you have aced them.


This is similar to a backhand in tennis. If you are a right handed for example and the ball is on your left side, you would still use your right hand, but turn the hand so that the palm of your hand is facing outwards.

Ball on/in

This is when a ball from another court enters the court you are playing on. The play is stopped and then restarted once the ball is removed.

Block/Moving Block

If you hit another player with the ball, it is called a block. Or if a person is intentionally moving in front of you preventing you from being able to have a shot it is a moving block.


This is when the ball does not bounce at all.


On outdoor handball courts, there are a lot of cracks on the ground. If the ball hits the crack it is still good. This can hurt the chances of you being able to hit the ball, since hitting the crack will make the ball fly in directions that you cannot possibly follow.


This is a hard skill to learn. You must put a twist on the ball by moving your hand in a chop like way. The ball will hit the wall with a spin making its landing unpredictable.


If it is your turn to serve, and the wrong teammate serves, you automatically lose your turn.

Fist shot

If you want to hit the ball really hard, it is called a fist shot. This is when you hit the ball with your knuckles, actually punching it.

Fly shot

This is when you hit the ball in mid-air, before it hits the ground.


A killer is when you hit the ball really low to the ground. This play is not impossible to pick up but it is hard. There is also something called "killing the corner". This is when you aim the ball perfectly to one corner, right near the out line and hit it really low. The chances of your opponent retrieving that shot is low.

Lob (overhead shot)

This is when you hit the ball underhand, making it go really high on the wall, and then landing the ball far to back near the long line. You can also do an overhand shot, which is almost the same as far as placing the ball, but you don't hit the ball underhand.


When a person is on the court while the ball is in play. Meaning a person who does not belong their.


If you hit the ball, and it goes into the outlines on the wall, it is called "OUT ON WALL".


This is when the ball is really close to the ground, but you still manage to pick it up on the first bounce.

Pop (choke)

This is when the ball hits the floor and the wall at the same time. The ball will usually pop straight up in the air. The play is dead and the ball is considered out.

Power side

This is the side of the court that you feel most comfortable on. Usually the stronger player will play on the side in which the other player does not feel comfortable on.


This is when the ball hits the bottom of the wall so low that it just rolls. It is really a lucky shot, usually happens when you are trying to kill the ball. This shot is good and you automatically get the point if you are serving.

Screen serve (under-leg)

If the ball is served and goes under your legs it is out. If game is in play and it goes in between your legs, the ball is still live and you must continue playing.


For this you will cup your hand making the ball bounce from your hand to the wall. In this case, you are not slapping the ball.

It is very important to maintain a healthy active lifestyle.If you are looking for a fun, healthy sport, handball is the game. You can find out more about staying healthy and being active by visiting here:

Like anything else, practice makes perfect. I started playing when I was 8 years old and by the time I was 15 years old, I could play with the best of them in my neighborhood. They do offer handball courts at some of your local YMCA’s but I believe they play more of the “professional competition” way, using the smaller ball and more than one wall.

If you want to try it, but can't find an official type of wall, the side of a building works quite well to practice!


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    • Pcunix profile image

      Tony Lawrence 6 years ago from SE MA

      I have never played and have never seen anyone play except on TV. Must be a city thing?

    • jennshealthstore profile image

      Jenn 6 years ago from Florida

      Yes, it is mostly a city thing. I have been places in which they had no idea of what it was. It is really fun!

    • Wendy Krick profile image

      Wendy Krick 6 years ago from Maryland

      I've never played either. It really looks fun. I be it would get someone in great shape.

    • jennshealthstore profile image

      Jenn 6 years ago from Florida

      Hi Wendy. Yes believe me it gets you into great shape. It works every muscle in the body plus it is fun!

    • jj200 profile image

      jj200 6 years ago from My Bedroom

      I've heard of handball, though I thought it was a foreign thing. I believe it's popular in places like Germany and Australia to name a few. Though that is the indoor kind. Never heard of outdoor handball. This is quite different I believe. We played wall ball here in MA and it was similar but with more people. Those little blue balls were the best!

      Cool hub Jenn.

    • jennshealthstore profile image

      Jenn 6 years ago from Florida

      Thanks jj200. I think the kind of handball you use to play was called chinese handball. It is when a line of people stood in a row and had to bounce the ball to the wall in order. Something like that lol, after writing this hub, I really want to go and play. I haven't played in about a year. There are no outdoor courts where I live. : (

    • akirchner profile image

      Audrey Kirchner 6 years ago from Central Oregon

      I've never played but always wondered about the rules. I used to watch the boys play in high school. I'm a huge racquetball fan though and love to play that. I just wonder if my poor broken down arms and hands could take handball!

    • jennshealthstore profile image

      Jenn 6 years ago from Florida

      LOL akirchner. If you are not use to it, the gloves work really well. It takes a little practice, but you generally have an idea since you play racquetball and it should not be that hard for you. I am sure you would do great!

    • profile image

      Anita 6 years ago

      I miss handball so much we had lots of fun playing handball instead of going to school. But i will be in Coney Island soon so maybe i will play a game! Ahh the good ole days..........

    • stars439 profile image

      stars439 6 years ago from Louisiana, The Magnolia and Pelican State.

      Thank you for sharing. Very nice hub and looks like fun. God Bless You.

    • jennshealthstore profile image

      Jenn 6 years ago from Florida

      Thanks star. It is lots of fun.

    • wordsscriber profile image

      wordsscriber 6 years ago from California

      I have not play handball in some time. Brings back memories. We just used a wall or the side of a building.

    • jennshealthstore profile image

      Jenn 6 years ago from Florida

      That right wordsscriber, any wall or side of a building will do!

    • profile image

      changa408 6 years ago

      I have been playing handball for 25 years and have met a lot of great people who love it as much as I do that's why I think indoor players should reach out to kids that live in bad areas with nowhere to go but just parks and make it more affordable for them to get involved I think we would see a lot more good players in the future .

    • jennshealthstore profile image

      Jenn 6 years ago from Florida

      Thanks changa for your comment. Yes, I think it is a great sport for all ages and kids would love it!

    • profile image

      Isaac Cho 6 years ago

      I've played handball for 1 year. I just need gloves. but I don't know where to get them. If I have gloves while playing, I would be better at it. I love handball. It makes me feel great. I also get to meet new people.

    • jennshealthstore profile image

      Jenn 6 years ago from Florida

      It is a great sport! I have handball gloves listed on my article. It is much easier to play with the gloves, but you will get use to it after a while.

    • profile image

      johnnyzky 6 years ago

      Hey there I have been playing the sport for over 30 years and yes it is a city sport;how ever,in Puerto Rico I too have played hand ball like in Ceiba where a hand ball court was built in the 1980's.I love the sport and feel that every one in need of a complete body and mind exercise should try it.Thank You Jenn for this page.

    • jennshealthstore profile image

      Jenn 6 years ago from Florida

      Hi Johnny. Thanks for your comment! You are right, everbody should try it.

    • profile image

      RUBYJ459@YAHOO.COM 5 years ago


    • jennshealthstore profile image

      Jenn 5 years ago from Florida

      Ha, ya a video camera would have been nice!! I never got into paddle ball much, I guess because I got so use to handball. Thanks for your comment!

    • profile image

      Antonio 5 years ago

      In elementary school we played a very modified variant of Chinese handball. The terms used there were a lot different than others I've heard. Chops, pops, straight A's and overlines just to name a few. I always thought Chinese was easier than any other variant, with more control over power and whatnot when hitting.

    • jennshealthstore profile image

      Jenn 5 years ago from Florida

      Thanks Antonio for your comment. Yes Chinese handball is quite different. I really never got into that too much because it was not very challenging.

    • profile image

      Vince 4 years ago

      Love playing, but I moved to NJ and although I have found a few courts, it is really hard to find players. If there is anyone in central NJ seeking some competitive handball, please let me know. I also have a partner, who is very good at the game. We are up for singles or doubles.

    • profile image

      Rebecca 4 years ago

      I used to play when I lived in NYC, but I moved away 35 years ago. Just discovered there is a public handball court 10 minutes from my home. I went out this morning and just practiced a bit on my own. What fun! I wonder if there are any women players around here -- Boston area. If so, please email me at rmyoung3 at gmail dot com.

    • jennshealthstore profile image

      Jenn 4 years ago from Florida

      Aww you are lucky! I wish I could play. Have fun..

    • profile image

      ROSA 4 years ago


    • jennshealthstore profile image

      Jenn 4 years ago from Florida

      Hi Rosa, thanks for your comment. I agree with you totally, my handball years were great years and when I wrote this hub it brought back many memories for me as well.

    • profile image

      JAY 4 years ago

      Yeah, what's up guys?i was born & raised in Brooklyn & handball was & still is the main sport i's just that challenging & really have to be in shape in order to excell in this game.also strategy & ball placement is very important.only sport that requires very little.meaning just a wall & good proper attire.(sneakers, sweats,etc.).i encourage anybody to just go out try it.don't worry about losing in the beginning.just keep honing your skills & results will of luck.J-BK.

    • profile image

      Pedro 2 years ago

      This intmioafron is off the hizool!

    • profile image

      Juan 9 months ago

      Where I could buy the small ball at

    • jennshealthstore profile image

      Jenn 9 months ago from Florida

      At a sporting store you should be able to get one. Or order online.

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