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Four-Wall Handball

by Ron Kurtus (7 April 2001)

Four-wall handball is a game similar to racquetball, except that the players hit the ball with a gloved hand instead of using a racquet. Both the left and right hands are used, depending on where the ball is hit.

The objective in the game is score 21 points before your opponent does. Points are scored by the person serving the ball.

Questions you may have include:

This lesson will answer those questions.

Background of the game

Handball is a highly competitive sport, where each player tries to outscore his opponent through the use of skill, strength, speed, stamina and strategy.


Four-wall handball is played in the same enclosed room as is racquetball. The room or court is usually 20 feet wide, 20 feet high and 40 feet long. There are also outdoor versions of the game using one-wall or three-walls.

Difficult to master

The sport is difficult to master, since players must be able to hit the ball with both their left and right hands. Hitting the ball incorrectly can result in painful bone-bruises on the fingers and palms of the hand. Because of the physical nature of the sport, not many women play it.

Handball was popular in the 1970s, but interest in the sport waned with the advent of racquetball, which is easier to master and is more popular with female participants.

Although handball is difficult to master, the competent players love the game.

Types of games

When handball is played by two opponents, it is called singles. It can also be played as doubles with two teams of two players each. Sometimes three players will play a game of cutthroat, where the server must score against the other two players.

How points are scored

The idea of the game is for the server to score points off his opponent.

Serving ball

The server must stand in the service zone--which is about half way to the front wall--and serve the ball off the front wall, such that it flies past the service zone short line. The ball must hit the the front wall first and it must not hit the ceiling, back wall or more than one side wall on the fly.

Returning ball

The second player then tries to return the ball to the front wall. There are no limitations to what walls the ball hits before reaching the front wall, as long as it does not hit the floor first. The second player must also return the ball before it hits the floor twice.

Scoring or changing serve

The players continue to hit the ball until one player loses the rally by missing the ball, hitting the ball to the floor first, or not hitting the ball until it has bounced twice. If the second player loses the rally, it is a point for the server, who then serves again. If the server misses, serve is lost. Losing the serve is called an "out."

Basic strategies

There are a number of strategies used to win a game of handball.

Hit to weak side

One of the most basic strategy in the game is to hit the ball to your opponent's weak side--usually the left side. Some will only serve to the weak side. In "gentlemen's" games, the service is alternated between the left and right sides.

Hit tough shots

You want to hit shots that are difficult to return. A "kill shot" is one the hits the front wall so near the floor that it cannot be returned without difficulty, if at all.. Another good shot is a ceiling shot that fist hits the ceiling, hits the front wall, and bounces off the floor over the head of the other player such that it comes off the rear wall at an angle that is difficult to return. Also, shots that hug the side wall are difficult to return.

Set-up opponent

Getting the opponent to run is good to wear him down, as well as to set him up for a shot he cannot return. There are numerous other strategies concerning how the ball is hit and how to get an advantage on your opponent.


Four-wall handball is a difficult game to master, but it is well-worth the trouble. Scoring is similar to other court games. The most basic strategy is to hit the ball so it is very difficult for your opponent to return.

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