Handball player positions and playing area

Playing area

A competitive handball match is played on a large rectangular court that is 40 m long by 20 m wide, with a goal in the centre of each end. A competitive handball court is much bigger than a competitive basketball court – the outer boundaries, called sidelines or touch lines, are longer and the goal lines or end lines are shorter.

The court is 40 m long and 20 m wide, and the substitution area is 9 m wide. It features a 4m line (goalkeeper line), 7 m mark (penalty mark), and a 9 m line (free-throw line), among others.

The inner markings of a handball court are very precise and support a number of rules within the game:

  • Halfway or centre line - this line is exactly in the middle of the two goal lines and has a spot directly in the middle. This spot is used for starting and restarting the game.
  • Free-throw line (9 m) – this dashed 'D' shaped line is 9 metres from the outer goal line. The line is used to resume play if an attacking player is fouled within the area.
  • Penalty mark (7 m mark) - the penalty mark is used for all penalty throws and is located 7 metres in front of the goal line and is 1 metre wide.
  • Goal Area/Crease/D-Zone (6 m) – this area is known by a number of different names. The D-shaped area is formed by two connected quarter-circles, each with a 6-metre radius. The only player allowed in this area is the goalkeeper.
  • Goalkeeper line (4 m line) – a goalkeeper is not allowed to pass this point when defending a penalty shot.


A competitive handball team consists of seven players per side, with all players (with the exception of the goalkeeper) being interchangeable during the game. Like most team sports, the team has very clear roles to support their overall success:

  • The goalkeeper – responsible for defending the goal.
  • Left wing - this attacking player is usually right-handed and covers the left-hand side of the court. In defence, they stand on the far left side touch line and in attack they provide counter-attacks down the left-hand side of the court.
  • Right wing - has the same responsibilities as the left wing down the opposite side.
  • Left back - the left back stands to the left of the centre back and tries to prevent the opposition from shooting. In possession of the ball they should initiate counter-attacks and often shoot from distance.
  • Right back - has the same responsibilities as the left back down the opposite side.
  • Centre back – the centre back stands in the middle of the court and provides both defending and attacking options.
  • Pivot - the pivot is an attacking player who travels along the opponent's six-metre line. They must work well with their team's centre back to initiate attacking strategies and are required to shoot in a range of positions. In defence, they play in front of their team and try to close down the opposition's attacks.
The players on a handball court include left back, left wing, centre back, rght wing and right back.