Tug of war is a unique team sport, where the team work requires all team members to do the same thing. Perhaps only rowing can match the sport in this respect.
Tug of War Takes place outdoors, on grass, and indoors on mats, and there are male, female and youth (under 18) competitions at various weight categories, which take place all year round, indoor (October-March) in the winter, and outdoor in the summer (April-September).
The Tug of War Association (TOWA) organises men’s, women’s and youth competitions. Mixed teams and men’s teams pulling against women’s teams are not allowed in championship events, but mixed gender pulling is allowed (and quite common) in open competitions. Competitions under TOWA laws are held every weekend. Outdoor Tug of War (on grass) from March to September, and Indoor Tug of War (on mats) from October to February. All member clubs can compete at these meetings. Clubs who are not members of the TOWA may also compete for a trial period but should register with the Association if they wish to continue pulling in its competitions.
A Tug of War team consists of eight pullers (six for some youth competitions) plus a coach and a trainer. The coach is the only person in the arena (apart from the judge) who may address remarks to the team during a pull. All pulls are conducted under the control of a TOWA judge. Pulls are best of three, the choice of first end being decided by the toss of a coin. The object is to pull the opposing team a distance of four metres. Teams can be disqualified for persistently infringing the rules. The rules are clearly stated in the TOWA Handbook, but if you stay in a proper pulling position, i.e. facing forwards with both hands on the rope, do not sit down and do not lock the rope across your body you should be OK.
Tug of War competitions are organised in weight classes where each team of eight pullers must not exceed the stated weight. Weight classes start at 560 kilos for men and 520 kilos for women. Teams are weighed on 8-person scales. Most Tug of War meetings have 3 -6 weight classes. Each weight class is run as a points competition (where each team pulls every other team, getting 3 points for a 2 - nil win, 2 points for a 2 - 1 win and 1 point for losing 1- 2, the team ending up with most points being the winner), or as a knockout competition (where two teams end up in a final).
There are rules regarding footwear (very important) and clothing.
The highlight of outdoor tug of war is the clash of sheer power between the two teams. Athletes seek an optimal foothold in the ground by digging in their heels and, using that as their pivot, pull the rope with all the strength they're capable of mustering.
Obviously, this technique doesn't work for the indoor events: leaning too far back would cause the athletes to slip, even on the specially designed rubber mats. Hence they try to steadily move back - step by step - to avoid loss of pulling power. Indoor matches require more complex techniques and tactics than those in the outdoor tug of war.
The key is for the rope to be pulled in a straight line from the lead to the anchor. The team pulling the centre of the rope four meters from the starting position is declared the winner. The rope is between 33,5 and 36m in length, 10 to 12,5cm in diameter, and of hemp.
The Tug of War Association is the governing body of the sport in England and is recognised by Sport England, as well as being affiliated to England Athletics and the Tug of War International Federation (TWIF). TWIF is also a member of the IOC and the sport is striving to regain Olympic status, which it had in the first 5 Olympic Games before the sport was removed to reduce the number of participants.
If you would like to join a team, or wish to register your team with the Tug of War Association, then visit their website: The Tug of War Association
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