Premier Education

6 Handball Activities for PE Classes

With the IHF World Men’s Handball Championship just around the corner, it’s the perfect time for kids to get inspired and try something new. Handball is a sport that flies largely under the radar, but is a fantastic, gender-neutral sport that can slot easily into PE lessons.

We’ve gathered a handful of handball activities ideal for PE classes.

What is handball?

Blend netball, basketball and football into one and you’ll get something that resembles handball. This sport has been around since Roman times in one form or another and has seen a resurgence in popularity in recent years.

Teams of 7 – 6 outfield players and 1 goalkeeper – compete against one another for two 30-minute halves (for a standard match). Players can pass the ball, dribble (with more or less the same rules as basketball) and shoot while in possession, while the other team works to defend and intercept.

Only the goalkeeper can use their feet, and no player is allowed to enter the goal area except the goalie. It’s a great game for kids to play, as handball can easily be adjusted to different skill levels and is perfect for mixed-gender groups.

6 handball activities for PE

Bringing handball into physical education lessons is easy to do, and only requires minimal equipment.

The following activities all work to build skills relevant to handball or are alternative ways to play the game for beginners.

1. Ball control and handling drills

Working on ball control and handling is the first step to playing handball. You wouldn’t play a tennis match without learning how to hold a racket!

Some exercises that work to improve ball control and handling:

  • Make a figure 8 with the ball, weaving it between the legs and gradually increasing speed.
  • Pound dribble. While stationary, kids ‘pound’ the ball into the ground as fast as they can, bouncing to knee height.
  • Wraps. Kids have to move the ball around their heads, waists and ankles without dropping it.

2. Piggy in the middle

A playground classic that is brilliant for building handball skills. Piggy in the middle encourages children to learn defence, think outside the box and improve their passing skills.

The most popular pass in handball is a one-handed, over-the-shoulder throw. This is commonly used in piggy in the middle, giving kids a chance to practise.

Make sure the games are short; no more than a few minutes. Whoever is in the middle is likely to get frustrated if they’re the piggy for too long!

Island hopping

Similar to piggy in the middle, but a more advanced version. ‘Island hopping’ involves a group of children dribbling between cones (i.e. islands) while two children – the pirates – work to stop them.

It’s a great way to introduce dribbling into the exercise, an important skill in handball. 4 cones (the islands) are set up in corners, roughly 4 metres away from one another. Groups of 2-3 kids will stand on each island – they have to dribble the ball from one cone to another while two children in the centre area work to steal it back. This exercise develops both dribbling skills and the ability to find space.

3. Relay passing

Passing and catching while on the move is a tricky skill to master. Before they make the jump to an actual game of handball, it’s a good idea for kids to practise through relay passing.

Two groups of children line up on opposing sides and run parallel to one another (make sure there are at least a few metres between the two groups). One row will have a ball each, while the other is empty-handed: the challenge is to pass to the other team while both are running; the person that catches the ball can join the back of the throwing queue and vice versa.

If you really want to focus on passing variation, you can alternate passing types at the end of each run-through so they develop a wider passing range:

  • Overhead pass
  • Side pass
  • Bounce pass
  • Chest pass

This may be a little tricky for beginners. For less confident or younger groups, a stationary relay drill with a single ball works just as well!

4. Dodgeball

Dodgeball is of course a sport in and of itself, but it does require some of the same skills as handball. If you want the children to improve their throwing and catching skills, dodgeball is a fun game that doesn’t need a whole lot of prep.

The speed of throws in dodgeball – and the need to hit a target – transfer well to handball. Improving fitness is only a bonus!

5. Hit the cone

Practise handball without the goal. Get the kids to work on their precision throwing while learning the game. The goals are replaced with a single cone on each side; to win a point, you simply need to knock over the opposite team’s cone.

All the normal rules of handball still apply, though this is usually played on a much smaller court.

6. Beginner handball

Once the children have mastered the basics, they can play handball on training wheels. Making the game slightly easier as they learn the ropes will help children to progress quickly and keep them engaged.

Here are a few adjustments you can make to ensure it’s beginner-friendly:

  • Be flexible on the 3 steps rule. Allow up to 6 steps with the ball.
  • No contact.
  • Smaller court.
  • Smaller team sizes. A max of 5 players.


How do you play handball in PE?

Handball is a great invasion game that many children can pick up quickly. Here are our tips to get started playing this fun game in your PE lessons:

  • Use a soft ball which isn’t too big (therefore easily caught) to help give players confidence.
  • Don’t worry about spending precious funds on special resources, goals can easily be large mats or benches.
  • Start with some simple throwing and catching drills.
  • When you’re ready to try a game, ensure all children are involved and have fun!

What are the main skills needed in handball?

  • Catching – this may sound obvious but being able to catch the ball with one or both hands while both stationary and on the move is crucial.
  • Passing – accurate passing is key, ideally at around head height. Again, players should practise passing with both and either hands.
  • Shooting – similar to passing, shots at the goal need to be accurate, but with more force than passing.
  • Interception – without making any contact with the opponent, players must try to intercept the ball in order to stop the other team from scoring.

What are the benefits of playing handball?

Apart from being a great sport to improve overall physical literacy, handball requires teamwork and communication, teaching children to work together.

Of course, handball is a fast-paced game, so children will benefit hugely from the cardiovascular endurance it promotes.

Deliver handball to the class with Premier Education

While handball is a sport with rising popularity, we’re aware that it’s still fairly foreign to many PE teachers.

Enhance your physical education lessons with Premier Education’s PE enrichment offering. We can help teachers re-discover the excitement of delivering rewarding PE lessons, with our expert coaches on-hand to provide high-level training and support.

Outside of the school schedule, after-school clubs are a great way to get kids active. We can introduce new sports like handball to kids and help them discover a love of exercise and develop new skills.

Handball is just one of the fantastic collection of sports and activities that Premier Education offer. With bespoke lesson plans, exceptional training and excellent activity variation, your Premier Education-enriched PE lessons are sure to send your school to the top of the class.