1. The Game
1.1 Types of games. Four-wall handball may be played
by two, three or four players. When played by two, it is called
singles; when played by three, cutthroat (See Interpretation No.1);
and when played by four, doubles.
1.2 Description. Handball is a competitive game in which
either hand or either fist may be used to serve and return the
1.3 Objective. The objective is to win each rally by
serving or returning the ball so the opponent is unable to keep
the ball in play. A rally is won when one player is unable to
return the opponent's shot to the front wall before it touches
the floor twice, or when a player returns the ball so that it
hits the floor before striking the front wall.
1.4 Points and outs. Points are scored only by the serving
side when it serves an ace (un-returnable serve) or wins a rally.
When the serving side loses one rally in singles or two rallies
in doubles, it loses the serve. Losing the serve is called an
1.5 Game, match, tiebreaker. A match is won by the first
side winning two games. The first two games of a match are played
to 21 points. In the event each side wins a game, a tie-breaker
is played to 11 points.
2. Courts and Equipment
2.1 Courts. The specifications for the standard four-wall
handball court are:
The court is 20 feet wide, 20 feet high and 40 feet long, with
back wall recommended minimum height of 14 feet.
B. Lines and
zones. Handball courts shall be divided and marked on the floors
with 2-inch-wide lines. Recommended colors are white or red. The
lines shall be marked as follows:
line. The short line is parallel to the front and back walls.
Its outside edge is 20 feet from the front wall.
line. The service line is parallel to the short line and its outside
edge is 5 feet in front of the outside edge of the short line.
zone. The service zone is the area between the outer edges of
the short and service lines.
boxes. A service box is located at each end of the service zone
by lines which have outside measurements of 18 inches from, and
parallel to, each side wall.
restraining lines. Five feet back of the outside edge of the short
line, lines should be marked on the floor extending at least 6
inches from the side wall. These lines, parallel to the short
line, may also be marked as a broken line extending from side
wall to side wall.. (See Rule 4. 4.A).
The material should be rubber or synthetic material.
Color is optional.
1 and 7/8-inch diameter, with l/32-inch variation.
The ball shall be 58-62 grams, with a variation of 2 grams. A
lighter ball may be used for any division provided it is USHA
approved and is specified on the entry blank.
Rebound from free fall, 70-inch drop to a hardwood floor is 48
to 52 inches at a temperature of 68 degrees F.
A new ball must be selected by the referee for use in each match
in all tournaments. During a game the referee has the authority
to change balls if he deems it necessary. Though it is the referee's
decision, he should honor requests when made by both sides or
when he detects erratic bounces.
Gloves must be worn.
Gloves must be light in color and made of a soft material or leather.
The fingers may not be webbed, connected or removed.
substances. No foreign substance, tape or rubber bands shall be
used on the fingers or on the palms on the outside of the gloves.
Metal or hard substances may not be worn under the glove if, in
the opinion of the referee, it creates an unfair advantage (See
interpretation No. 2).
D. Wet Gloves.
Gloves must be changed when they become sufficiently wet to moisten
the ball. This is the referee's decision. Gloves with holes that
expose the skin may not be worn. It is the player's responsibility
to have an ample supply of dry gloves.
All parts of the uniform, consisting of a shirt, shorts, socks
and shoes, must be clean at the beginning of a match. Only customary
handball attire, in the referee's judgment, can be worn. Players
may not play without shirts. Shirts must be full length, not cut
off in the torso.
Color is optional. Unusual patterns that affect the opposing player's
view of the ball or distract him may not be worn.
C. Wet shirts.
Referee may demand that a wet shirt be changed. Players must have
an ample supply of dry shirts.
and insignia. Lettering or insignia in poor taste is not allowed.
Shoes must have soles that do not mark or damage the floor.
(sweatband). Players must have access to a headband. They will
not be required to wear it unless the referee deems it necessary
to help keep the floor from getting wet.
2.5 Eye protection.
Protective eye wear must be properly worn at all times during
play. The USHA recommends that players select lensed eye protection
designed for court sports, with polycarbonate lenses of at least
3 m.m. center thickness.
Failure to wear appropriate protective eyewear properly will result
in a technical (see Rule 4.9), and the player will be charged
a timeout to secure eyewear. The second violation in the same
match will result in a forfeit. (See Interpretation No. 3).
3. Officials and Officiating
3.1 Tournament director. All tournaments shall be managed
by a tournament director, who shall designate the officials. Whenever
possible, the officials should include a chief of referees, a
floor manager, match referees and linesmen.
The tournament director is responsible for overseeing the entire
tournament. He, or his delegated representative, shall be present
at all times.
B. Rules briefing.
Before all tournaments, all officials and players should be briefed
on rules and on local court hinders or other regulations. This
briefing should also be in writing. The current USHA rules will
apply and be made available. Any modifications made by the Tournament
Director should be stated on the entry form, and be available
to all players at registration. It is also recommended that referee
clinics be held before all USHA-sanctioned tournaments.
3.2 Chief of referees. The chief of referees is in charge
of assigning referees to all tournament matches.
3.3 Removal of referee. One or more players may request
that a referee be replaced. The decision to do so is at the sole
discretion of the tournament director or chief of referees. Special
consideration should be given to such a request if all players
are in agreement.
duties. Before each match begins, it shall be the duty of the
Check on adequacy of preparation of the handball court with respect
Check on availability and suitability of all materials necessary
for the match, such as handballs, towels, scorecards, pencils
and a timepiece.
officials. Check readiness and provide instructions to assisting
hinders. Explain court hinders, if any, to players. (See Rule
gloves, uniforms and eye protection. Remind players to have an
adequate supply of extra gloves and shirts. Inspect compliance
of gloves and hands with rules. Remind players that failure to
wear eye protection properly will result in a technical, and a
second violation in a forfeit.
game. Introduce players, toss coin to determine order of serve
and signal start of game.
The assigned referee should be present 15 minutes before match
warning. Give a two-minute warning before the match and before
Announce the scores before each rally. (See Rule 4.1.E).
The referee shall make all decisions with regard to the rules
and the referee has the authority to change his call. Where line
judges are used, the referee shall announce all final judgments.
In the absence of line judges, if both players in singles or three
out of four in a doubles match disagree with a call made by the
referee, the referee should consider reversing his call.
The referee shall have jurisdiction over the spectators, as well
as the players, while the match is in progress. (See Rule 5.6)
Any decision involving a rules interpretation may be protested
before the next serve. It will then be resolved by the chief of
referees or tournament director. Judgment calls may not be protested.
If the player's protest is upheld, the proper ruling will be made.
If the player's protest is not upheld, the player shall be charged
with a timeout. If the player is out of timeouts, he will be charged
with a technical.
A match may be forfeited by the referee when:
unsportsman-like conduct. Any player refuses to abide by the referee's
decision or engages in flagrant unsportsman-like conduct.
technicals. A player or side receives three technicals in a match,
or two technicals for failure to properly wear eye protection.
the court. Any player leaves the court at a time not allowed by
these rules without permission of the referee.
a. No show.
Any player for a singles match, or any team for a doubles match,
fails to report to play.
b. Late start
penalty. If a player is not ready to play (or resume play) on
time, the opponent shall be awarded one point. The opponent will
then be awarded one additional point for each full minute of delay
of game up to 10 minutes. The match shall then be forfeited. This
applies to the start of the match, between-game timeouts, timeouts
during a game and glove-change timeouts. Players should stay within
earshot of the referee to help prevent the delay-of-game penalty.
It is the obligation of the players to be ready to resume play
on time even if the referee fails to give time warnings. If the
matches are on, or ahead of schedule, the players must be in the
court warming up at least 10 minutes before the assigned match
time to assure a prompt start. If running behind, the players
must be dressed and ready to enter the court for a maximum 10-minute,
in-court warm up.
If a player
shows up less than 10 minutes before the scheduled starting time,
his warm-up time will be reduced accordingly. The tournament director
may permit a longer delay if circumstances warrant.
A player or team may be forfeited by the tournament director or
official in charge for failure to comply with the tournament or
host facility's rules while on the tournament premises, for failure
to referee or for any other improper conduct on the tournament
F. Other rulings.
The referee shall rule on all matters not covered in the USHA
Official Rules. However, the referee may be overruled by the chief
of referees or tournament director, the latter of whom shall have
3.5 Line judges.
If possible, two linesmen will be used in all matches, positioned
at the most advantageous viewpoints. A linesman's opinion is based
on his agreement or disagreement with the referee's call. If a
linesman is uncertain, he should abstain from expressing an opinion.
and responsibilities. Linesmen are designated to help decide appealed
calls. In the event of an appeal, and after a very brief explanation
of the appeal by the referee, the linesmen must indicate their
opinions of the referee's call. The signal to show agreement with
the referee is arm extended with thumb up, disagreement is shown
by thumb pointing down. The signal to show no opinion or that
the line judge is unsure, or his view was blocked, is arm extended
with an open hand and palm down. Line judges should not signal
until the referee acknowledges the appeal and asks for a ruling.
of response. If both line judges signal no opinion, the referee's
call stands. If both line judges disagree with the referee, the
referee must reverse his ruling. If only one line judge disagrees
with the referee's call, the referee may let the call stand, reverse
his call or call for a replay.
calls. The server may appeal a short or other service fault. He
may also appeal receiving line violations. If his appeal is upheld,
the server is awarded the serve over. If he had one short, the
call would cancel the previous fault call, and he would be awarded
two serves, because he was judged to have made a legal serve.
If, in the opinion of the referee, the ball could not have been
returned, a point shall be awarded the server. If the appeal is
not upheld, the call would be two shorts, a side out.
rally has ended, either player may appeal on a double-bounce call
or non-call, kill shots called good, killshots called no good
and court hinders. The outcome may result in a point being awarded,
a side out, or a replay depending on the linesmen's opinions.
If both linesmen disagree with the referee's call or non-call,
the call is reversed or replayed. After the rally has ended, either
player may appeal faults and skip serves not called. If he wins
the appeal, he is awarded the appropriate call.
At no time
may a player appeal a screen serve, hinder (other than court hinders),
technicals or other discretionary calls.
B. How to
appeal. A player must make appeals directly to the referee before
the referee announces the score. The referee will then request
the opinion of the linesmen.
may also appeal to the linesmen himself if he is uncertain of
his own call, and may then maintain, reverse or nullify his own
call. A replay shall be called if the referee believes it is necessary
in the interest of fairness.
Rule 3.7 Scorers.
The scorer, when utilized, shall keep a record of the progress
of the game in the manner prescribed by the tournament director.
As a minimum, the progress record shall include the order of serves,
outs, and points.
Rule 3.8 Floor
manager. The floor manager informs players of their court assignments
4. Play Regulations.
In singles, the player winning the toss of a coin serves first
in the first game. The other player serves first in the second
game. If a tiebreaker is necessary, the player who scored the
higher total of points in the first two games serves first. If
both players score an equal number of points in the first two
games, another coin toss will be made to determine which player
the side winning the toss of a coin chooses to serve or receive
in the first game. The other side shall choose for the second
game. If a tiebreaker is necessary, the team scoring the higher
total of points in the first two games shall choose. If both teams
score an equal number of points in the first two games, another
coin toss will be made to determine which team has the choice.
Games are started by the referee announcing “play ball,”
and then the score, “0 – 0.”
The server may serve from any place in the service zone. No part
of either foot may touch the floor beyond the outer edge of either
line of the service zone. Server must remain in the service zone
until the served ball passes the short line. Violations are called
“foot faults." (See Rule 4.3 C.1.).
The server must come to a complete stop in the service zone before
beginning the serve. The serve is begun by bouncing the ball to
the floor in the service zone. Although the server may bounce
and catch the ball several times before serving, when actually
beginning the serve the ball must be struck on a single bounce.
If a player allows the ball to bounce more than once after a single
drop and then hits it, a fault will be called (See Rule 4.3 C.8).
The ball must be struck by the server's hand or fist so that it
hits the front wall first and on the rebound hits the floor behind
the short line, either with or without touching one of the side
walls. If the server bounces the ball outside the service zone
as he begins his serve, a fault will be called (See Rule 4.3 C.7).
E. Time. A
serve may not be made until the referee has announced the score
(See Rule 3.4.A.9). The referee shall call point or side out as
soon as a rally ends. The receiver then has up to 10 seconds to
assume a receiving position. When the receiver has assumed a receiving
position or 10 seconds have elapsed, whichever occurs first, and
the server has had reasonable time to get to his serving position,
the referee shall announce the score and the server must serve
(strike the ball) within 10 seconds.
If the first
serve results in a fault or screen, the referee shall give the
receiver a reasonable time to take a receiving position and then
the referee shall announce "second serve" after which
the server must serve within 10 seconds. (See Interpretation No.
At the beginning of each game in doubles, each side informs the
referee of the order of service, which must be followed throughout
the game. Only the first server on the first serving team may
serve the first time up. This player must continue to serve first
throughout the game. When the game's first server is put out on
his initial serve, the side is out. Thereafter, both players on
each side shall serve until an out for each occurs. It is not
necessary for the server to alternate serves to the opponents.
position. On each serve, the server's partner shall stand erect
with his back to the nearer side wall and with both feet on the
floor within the service box until the served ball passes the
short line. Violations are called “foot faults."
4.3 Defective serves. Defective serves are of four types
and result in the following:
serves. A dead-ball serve results in no penalty and the server
is given another serve without canceling a prior illegal serve.
This occurs in the following situations:
hinders. If a served ball takes an erratic bounce due to a court
obstruction or wetness (before the serve has become a legal serve)
a court hinder is called and the serve is replayed. (See Rule
ball. If the ball is determined to have broken on the serve, a
new ball shall be substituted, and the serve shall be replayed.
serves. A screen serve call stops play, and the server gets another
serve. Two consecutive screen serves result in a “fault.”
balls. If, in the referee's judgment, the ball passes so close
to the server or the server's partner that the receiver's view
of the ball is obstructed, a screen should be called. (See Interpretation
No. 5). Also, if the served ball hits the server’s partner
on the fly rebounding from the front wall or from the front wall
and a side wall while the server’s partner is in a legal
position within the service box, it shall be treated as a screen
serve. It is also a screen when any otherwise legally served ball
passes behind the server's partner, between the partner and the
nearer side wall.
balls. A legally served ball that travels between the legs of
the server is an automatic screen.
C. Fault serves.
The following serves are fault serves, and any two that are hit
before a legal serve is executed result in an out:
1.) Foot fault.
a.) The server
begins the service motion with one or both feet touching the floor
outside the service zone (See Rule 4.1.C).
b.) The server
leaves the service zone before the served ball passes the short
c.) In doubles,
when the server's partner is not in the service box with both
feet on the floor and his back to the nearer side wall from the
time the serve is begun until the ball passes the short line.
serve. Any serve that first hits the front wall and on the rebound
hits the floor in front of, or on, the short line either with
or without touching one side wall.
serve. Any serve that first hits the front wall and then hits
any two other walls before hitting the floor.
serve. Any serve that hits the front wall first and then touches
5.) Long serve.
Any serve that first hits the front wall and rebounds to the back
wall before touching the floor.
serve. Any serve that first strikes the front wall and then rebounds
out of the court without touching the floor.
ball outside service zone. Any serve that is struck on a bounce
that was made outside the service zone. (See Rule 4.1 D)
8.) Not hitting
ball on first bounce from a single drop. (See Rule 4.1 D).
9.) Two consecutive
screen serves. Two consecutive screen serves result in a fault.
This is the only fault call that cannot be appealed.
D. Out serves.
Any of the following results in an out:
serve. Any attempt to strike the ball on the first service bounce
that results in a total miss, or in the ball touching any part
of the server's body other than the striking hand.
serve. Any served ball that does not strike the front wall first.
serve. Any served ball on the rebound from the front wall, before
bouncing on the floor, that touches the server, or touches the
server's partner when both of the partner’s feet are not
touching the floor inside the service box or when the partner’s
back is not to the nearer side wall. This includes a serve that
is intentionally caught. When the partner is hit by the serve
when he is not in his legal position, the out serve penalty supersedes
the partner's foot fault (See Interpretation No. 6).
4.) Two consecutive
fault serves. (See Rule 4.3 B).
serve. Any serve that hits a crotch in the front wall is an out.
All balls hitting the crotch of a wall and the floor shall be
considered to have hit the floor first. A serve that rebounds
on the fly from the front wall into the crotch of the back wall
and the floor is a legal serve, as is a three-wall crotch serve.
serve. In doubles, when either partner serves out of order, the
points scored by that server will be subtracted and an out serve
will be called. If the second server serves out of order, the
out serve will apply to the first server and the second server
will resume serving. If the player designated as the first server
serves out of order, a sideout will be called (See Interpretation
delay. The server fails to serve the ball within 10 seconds after
the referee has announced the score.
4.4 Return of serve.
position. The receiver or receivers must stand at least five feet
behind the short line, as indicated by the receiver’s restraining
lines, until the ball is struck by the server. Any violation of
this rule results in a point for the server. (See Rule 2.1.B.5)
B. Fly return.
In making a fly return, the receiver may play the ball anytime
after it passes over the back edge of the short line and no part
of his body may extend on or over the plane of the back edge of
the short line when contacting the ball. A violation results in
a point for the server. After contacting the ball, the receiver
may step on or over the short line without penalty.
C. Legal return.
After the ball is legally served, one of the players on the receiving
side must strike the ball either on the fly or after the first
bounce, and before the ball touches the floor the second time,
to return the ball to the front wall either directly or after
it has touched one or both side walls, the back wall, the ceiling,
or any combination of those surfaces. A returned ball may not
touch the floor before touching the front wall. A ball may be
played off the back wall as well as the front wall, provided the
ball does not touch the floor a second time. Failure to make a
legal return results in a point for the server.
of serve and more