How to Play Handball: The Street Rules
What Is Handball?
For those of you who do not know what handball is, it is a sport similar to racquetball. The difference is that 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 and professional. The information I will be providing will be about the street version.
As a teenager, I can remember the days of running to the park to go play handball. It was one of my favorite things to do. Hundreds of kids would meet at the park to play, and we would be there from morning until dark. Yeah, 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 those times were filled with competition and laughter.
- The Ball: There are two types of balls you can use. The one used for the street game is a bit smaller than an apple. The ball is hard but can be squeezed. If you are playing in a professional competition, the ball is about the size of a plum and is much harder.
- Gloves: If you are starting out, or are still not used to having swollen hands, you should purchase a pair of handball gloves. These will protect your hands, eliminate the swelling, and allow you to hit the ball harder.
- Clothing: You should wear comfortable clothing, but not anything too loose. It might get in the way of your swing and also make it harder to run around.
- Protective Glasses: These are a good idea if you don't want to get a black eye. The ball can hit you in the face. It has happened to me, and it doesn't feel pretty.
- Footwear: 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 all the time. Some people never learn!
The game requires great hand-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 without it bouncing, or allowing it to bounce once. The turn is over if it bounces once and is not hit.
- Singles: If you serve and the ball goes out of bounds, it is then the other player's turn. If you serve and the ball goes short or long, you have another chance. But you only get two chances. If you hit the ball on the floor before it hits the wall, you automatically lose your turn, and the other player serves.
- Doubles: 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 then 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 bounds, 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 an out.
Handball requires great strategy. You want your opponent to run around the court like crazy, and you want to hit the ball low enough so that they will have trouble retrieving it. If your ball hits the groove between the wall and the floor, that is awesome! Your opponent does not have much of a chance to pick that up. We call 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 is that 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, their main goal is just putting the ball on the wall. They will have no time to try to place it where they want it.
Coney Island Handball Game
Power Isn't Everything
It is great to have power when hitting the ball, but power should not be used 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. 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 happen to get it, you should then hit the ball hard enough to send it over their head, so the ball goes 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 seven, 11, or 21. This depended 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
- Ace: When serving, if you are able to get the ball within playing boundaries, and the opponent is not able to even touch the ball, you have aced them.
- Backhand: This is similar to a backhand in tennis. For example, if you are right-handed and the ball is on your left side, you would still use your right hand. You would turn your hand so that the palm 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.
- Bullet: This is when the ball does not bounce at all.
- Crack: 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 can't possibly follow.
- Cut/Chop/Slice: This is a hard skill to learn. You must put a twist on the ball by moving your hand in a chop-like fashion. The ball will hit the wall with a spin, making its landing unpredictable.
- Double-down: 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.
- Killer: This 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 are 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 the 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.
- Man-on-Court: This is when an outside individual is on the court while the ball is in play, meaning a person who does not belong there.
- Out-on-Wall: When you hit the ball, and it goes into the outlines on the wall.
- Pick-up: 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.
- Roller: This is when the ball hits the bottom of the wall so low that it just rolls. It is really a lucky shot that 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 the game is in play, and it goes between your legs, the ball is still live, and you must continue playing.
- Whip: This is when you cup your hand to make the ball bounce to the wall. In this case, you are not slapping the ball.
It is very important to maintain a healthy and active lifestyle. If you are looking for a fun and healthy sport, handball is the game.
Like anything else, practice makes perfect. I started playing when I was eight years old, and by the time I was 15, I could play with the best of them in my neighborhood. They do offer handball courts at some of your local YMCAs, but I believe they play more of the professional 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 for practice!
Have you ever played handball?
© 2010 Jennifer Maldonado