What is korfball?


A 40mx20m court is divided into two square halves. At each end of the court is a cylindrical basket (a “korf”; traditionally an actual wicker basket, now typically a plastic one) on top of a 3.5m high pole, situated 6.67m inside from the baseline. The aim of the game is to shoot the ball through your opponent’s korf, which scores one goal. Most goals wins the game. Simple!

Teams consist of eight players—four men, four women—who play in two “divisions” of two men and two women each. At any one time, one division is in the attacking half of the court, one defending. After every two goals, players switch ends and switch roles; attackers become defenders and defenders become attackers.

The “defended shot” rule

The rule that makes korfball a unique test of skill rather than physical attributes is the “defended shot” rule. If a defender can position themselves nearer to the korf than an attacker, within arms length of their torso, so that they are facing them, and attempt to block the ball as the attacker shoots, then they earn a “defended shot” and the ball is turned over to the defending team. This means that players must be constantly on the move to free themselves from defenders or risk turning the ball over when they shoot. The rule somewhat negates the advantage of height—tall players can’t simply dominate short players by shooting over them as in basketball.



Shooting is a vital skill, which is much trickier than it looks! One of the biggest adjustments that converts from basketball or netball have to make is for the extra height of the basket (around 11ft6 compared to 10ft). A good shot usually follows a high trajectory, allowing plenty of opportunity for the ball to fall over the front edge of the basket and drop through the korf.

In order to avoid being defended, many shots are taken whilst on the move. Often, this is while moving backwards or sideways to evade the reach of a close-marking defender.

Passing and ball handling

If shooting is the most vital element of the game, passing is probably the second. While you hold the korfball, you may not run, only pivot on the spot, so having the ball in your hands for only a brief period of time before delivering another accurate pass to your team-mate is vital. This is especially true when making the final pass before a shot—the shooter may only have a fraction of a second to release their shot, so a wayward pass may result in a lost opportunity.

Off-the-ball movement

As we have already seen, if you have the ball in your hands, your movement is severely restricted. This makes the movement of all the other players on the team all the more important. It’s also one of the aspects of the game that takes longest to master after you first start, but, hey, that’s why you come to training, right?

Much of the movement off the ball is centred not only on where you move, but positioning yourself in a way that prevents your opponent from getting to where he/she wants to go. Korfball is a controlled contact sport which means that pushing, shoving and holding are not allowed, but passive blocking with the body is permitted.


A lot of korfball is about individual skill, but you can’t do it on your own; you have to be supported by your team-mates, and be ready to support them if they have an opportunity. Individual skill can get you opportunities, but you need co-operation between team-mates to capitalise on them.


Of course, without defenders, there would be no game! You can only defend an attacker of your own sex. Most defending is one-on-one, though you may sometimes need to be on hand to mark your team-mate’s attacker if they get into trouble! You need good spatial awareness and reactions to keep track of both your attacker and the ball.

All-round ability

There are no specialists in this game! Attackers become defenders and defenders become attackers every two goals. Over the course of the game, every player can score.

Korfball is a fast, dynamic sport. Two teams of mixed sex compete against each other to score a basket at opposing ends of the court.

Players cannot run with the ball, contact each other or dribble the ball. They must get free from their personal defender in order to shoot the ball because that defender is actively trying to defend their shot.

The principles are similar to those of netball and basketball but the unique defending and mixed sex rules make for amuch more varied game at a much faster pace.


Korfball was invented in 1901 by a Dutch Schoolteacher, Nico Broekhuysen. Broekhuysen devised korfball as a game that all his pupils could become involved in, regardless of gender, height or sporting ability. To be successful, a team cannot rely solely on individual brilliance, rather, principles of co-operation are encouraged by the rules and mechanics of the game.