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Handball: Terms to Know

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Corner throw

A throw-in from a corner at the offensive end of the court, awarded to the offense when the ball crosses the end line and was last touched by a defender other than the goalkeeper.


A disqualification is the equivalent of three two-minute suspensions. A disqualified player must leave the court and bench, but the team can replace the player after the two-minute suspension expires. An exclusion is given for a severe infraction, similar to a red card in soccer. The excluded player's team continues minus one player for the rest of the game.

Diving shot

A maneuver in which a player has the ball at the edge of the goal area and leaps toward the goal, releasing the ball just before touching down.

Free throw

For a minor foul or violation, a free throw is awarded to the opponent at the exact spot where it took place, with the defense positioned three meters from the ball. If the infraction occurs between the 6-meter line and the 9-meter line, the defense lines up at the 6-meter line and the free throw is taken from the 9-meter line, closest to where the foul took place. This happens frequently and teams have several different 9-meter plays. A goal may be scored directly from a free throw.

Goal throw

A goal throw is awarded when the ball goes over the end line and is last touched by the offensive team or by the defending goalkeeper.


An ancient Roman event in which athletes threw a small ball to teammates. Harpastum is one of the sports to which handball is believed to trace its roots.


A game believed to be a precursor to handball, ourania is described by Homer in The Odyssey as follows

"They took at once in their hands the lovely ball / Which Polybos, with cunning art, had wove from purple wool. / One cast this up to heaven to reach the sparkling clouds, / Bent hard back; the other then sprang high up in the air / And caught it nimbly, ere his foot touched ground again. / And after they had tried to toss the ball on high, / Danced light as air upon the all-nourishing earth, / In position often changed."

Penalty throw

A penalty throw, also known as a 7-meter throw, is awarded when a player is fouled in the act of shooting with a clear chance at the goal or when the defensive team intentionally enters the goal area. An offensive player shoots the penalty shot one-on-one against the goalie from the penalty mark. All other players hover at the 9-meter line for a possible rebound. The shooter is not allowed a running start and must keep at least one foot on the ground behind the 7-meter line during the throw.


A term for the center backcourt player who directs the offense and penetrates. This role is similar to a point guard in basketball.


Awarded when the ball goes out of bounds on the sideline, a throw-in is taken from the spot where the ball crossed the sideline. The thrower must place one foot on the sideline to execute the one-handed throw. All opposing players must stay three meters from the ball.


Taken from the center of the court after the referee's whistle. The players on the team taking the throw-off must be on their own half of the court, and the opponents must be at least three meters (9 feet, 10 inches) from the thrower, who attempts to throw the ball to a member of his/her own team. A goal may be scored directly from a throw-off. The throw-off occurs after every goal and usually is taken quickly.

Warnings (yellow cards)

Warnings occur when the referee, as in soccer, warns a player. The next time, he or she will have to sit out two minutes and his or her team must play short-handed. A second such penalty on the same player results in another two-minute penalty whereas a third warrants a red card and the player is disqualified from the game. The disqualified player's team must play the next two minutes short-handed before being able to return to even strength.

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