While the rest of the country was discovering (and falling in love) with team handball over the weekend, I went to probably the only high school in the US that had it as a "varsity" sport.
We had a PE coach from Romania who used to be a professional water polo player. (Water polo, like team handball, is apparently big in Eastern Europe) He also had a tremendous amount of body hair, but I digress.
Handball is basically water polo on land, if that doesn’t mean anything to you, you can think of it as basketball meets soccer. I played for a year, which by Skip Bayless logic, makes me a bonafide team handball expert.
You score by throwing a small rubber ball about half the size of a basketball through a 2x3 meter (sorry it's European) goal. There’s a goalie, but he’s pretty defenseless; it’s not very hard to aim and throw a ball really hard. We spent most of "practice" trying to see who would be the first person to get him in the crotch. He’s a med student now.
You can dribble the ball like you would a basketball. The difference is it's so small that anyone can palm it, which lets you do all types of Allen Iverson moves. Most of it was probably "carrying" but haters are going to hate so whatever.
Since scoring is so easy, the name of the game defensively is preventing an open shot on the goal. Everyone already knew how to play basketball, so we tried to push the ball and run as many fast breaks as possible. There was a restricted zone about 6 meters around the goal, so if you were ahead of the defense, you could get a running start and get some hang time to jump over the line as you shot.
In the half-court, it’s 6 on 6. There was one guy who posted up along the restricted line and five guys spread out across the court.
The taller guys played in the middle of the court, since they had an easier time shooting over the defense, and the faster guys played on the wings.
The one guy in the middle tries to seal defenders and get dump-off passes for shots. It was a position where being sweaty was definitely to your advantage.
You run a John Calipari offense -- everyone takes their turn making drives at the defense. You could dribble as much as you wanted, but once you picked it up, you had two steps before you could shoot or pass.
That’s most of the action in a handball game. Guys take turns driving and passing before eventually taking a shot, except everyone thinks they’re Kobe.
If you can draw a foul, you get a penalty shot at the seven-meter line, so there’s room to flop.
All in all, it’s fairly similar to basketball. I don’t know anything about any of the teams playing in the Olympics (although I’m going to guess the Eastern Europeans are favored), but I’m going to assume that LeBron, Durant and Kobe would wreck them if they had a weekend to practice.
I'm pretty much always down to play team handball. It's super fun.