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On the Sideline: Handball

With the 2008 Olympics and the all-important medal count now over, preparation for the next games is already beginning. However, there is one sport the United States won’t be training for: team handball.

A combination of soccer, football, basketball and hockey, team handball is an indoor adrenaline rush that is one of the world’s most popular games – except in the United States. Team handball was the only Olympic sport at Beijing that did not feature American athletes.

A handball court resembles a basketball court with soccer goals at either end. Teams are made up of six players and a goalie. The actual handball’s size is between a volleyball and softball, but is as hard as a fully inflated basketball, which explains the cotton swabs often seen sticking out of players’ noses during games.

Scoring is simple – if the ball completely crosses the goal line, your team earns a point. Goals occur frequently in handball, with typical scoring anywhere between 20 and 30 goals in a 60-minute match.

The most confusing part of handball may be ball movement. Players, other than the goalie, may not make contact with the ball from the knee down. A player may not hold the ball for more than three seconds before passing, bouncing or shooting the ball. Once they receive the ball, a player may only take three steps.

Dribbling is allowed but typically consists of a single bounce and catch. After a dribble, a player can take an additional three steps.

A semi-circle, known as the “D,” surrounds the goal and is for the goalie only. A player may cross the line in mid-jump but must release the ball before their feet hit the ground inside the D. ‘

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