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Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Olympic Handball

By Matt Herb

(LifeWire) - Let's be clear right from the start: This isn't the kind of handball you're probably thinking of - the kind that draws flocks of begoggled weekend warriors to your local racquetball courts every Saturday. Except for its name, that particular brand of parks-and-rec handball has nothing in common with Olympic handball.

Olympic handball is a seven-on-seven game filled with whiplash passing, aggressive defense and breathtaking aerial artistry. It might not be wildly popular in the United States, but it's huge in Europe and Asia - and getting bigger all the time. According to the International Handball Federation, there are 31 million handball players, trainers, officials and referees spread across 183 countries. So remove those goggles and take a closer look at this fascinating sport.

About Olympic Handball: Few sports mix the foreign and the familiar as deftly as handball. Fans of basketball, soccer and rugby will recognize many of its principles, but those principles have been tweaked and reassembled into a unique whole. Here's a quick primer to bring you up to speed.

Olympic Handball History: The game has existed in one form or another since the Greeks and Romans ruled the sporting world, but handball didn't emerge as a modern sport until the late 1800s- and it was nearly a century before it found a permanent place at the Olympics.

Action Image Gallery: You've seen dribbling before. You've seen jump shooting, too - but never like this. Check out these exciting shots of handball players in action.

LifeWire, a part of The New York Times Company, provides original and syndicated online lifestyle content. Matt Herb is a freelance writer based in St. Louis. He has covered college sports for the past 20 years and currently covers football, basketball and a variety of Olympic sports as a contributor to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
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