Tug of War is a physical sport where two teams compete by pulling on opposite ends of a rope to drag their opponents across a center line. This sport requires strength, teamwork, and strategy to be successful.

Brief History of Tug of War

Tug of War has a long and rich history, with evidence of similar games played in ancient civilizations such as ancient China, Greece, and Egypt. 

Evidence of Tug of War-like games can be found in ancient civilizations such as ancient China, Greece, and Egypt. These early versions of Tug of War were often used as rituals or religious events and were seen as tests of strength and willpower.

Which Body Governs Tug Of War?

Tug of War is governed by international and national rules set by the Tug of War International Federation (TWIF)

Official International Rules of Tug of War

The TWIF sets official international rules for Tug of War, which are used in international competitions and events. These rules cover a wide range of topics, including the number of players on a team, the length and weight of the rope, the size of the playing field, and the criteria for determining a winner.

Tug of War is typically played between two teams of 8 players each, but variations exist with fewer or more players on a team.  Here are the tug of war rules and guidelines:

Tug Of War Rules

Here are the rules of tug of war:

  • Tug of war gear: All tug of war participants must be properly attired. Rugby jerseys are perfect for tug of war, and players can wear shorts or pants. On footwear, avoid shoes with heels, spikes/cleats or flip-flops. The best shoes for tug of war are training or outdoor shoes.
  • Safety while playing: Participants shouldn’t make a loop or wrap the rope around the hand for a better grip. This could lead to serious injuries like dislocations or even losing fingers or hands.
  • The number of players: Tug of war teams typically comprise 8 per side and should be the same gender and approximately the same size. The mass of one team must not exceed the weight determined for that category.
  • Rope markings: The tug of war rope should be marked in the middle with a center line and two marks placed 4m from the center line. The center line of the rope must align with the line marked on the ground.
  • Scoring: The game is won by the team that successfully pulls the mark on the rope closest to their opponents to their side of the center line. The match may be best 2 of 3, but the teams and the planner can adjust to align with the event’s needs.
  • Referee: A referee must supervise all matches and signal when one team has won (pulling white marking over the center line).
  • Fouls: Participants shouldn’t sit on the ground or floor, which infringes the rules. Also, the rope must be pulled underarm, and the elbow should go below the knee.

Equipment and Playing Field

Ropes used in Tug of War

Tug of war ropes must meet specific requirements in terms of length, weight, and diameter. Most ropes are made from natural fibers like hemp and are braided tightly to make them strong and last a long time.

The recommended diameter for a tug of war rope is 11 cm in circumference and 33.5m long with plain whipped ends for an 8 to 8 competition. Also, the rope should be made of natural manila fiber, not nylon. 

Tug of War Playing Field Specifications

Tug of war playing fields must meet specific size and marking requirements. The field is typically divided into two halves by a center line, and each team’s side must be clearly marked. The rope is anchored at the center of the field, with each team pulling from their respective side.

Safety Gear and Equipment

Even though tug of war is a pretty safe sport, players should always wear the right safety gear, like shoes and gloves that are made to last. In addition, the rope should be checked before each game to ensure that it is in good condition and free of any knots or other obstructions.

Scoring and Winning

Tug of war is won by the team that successfully pulls the rope to their side of the center line. In some competitions, the first team to win a set number of rounds is declared the winner, while in others, the winner is determined based on the number of rounds won and the margin of victory.

Strategies and Techniques

Physical preparation and conditioning

To be successful in tug of war, players must be in good physical condition and have a strong grip and upper body strength. This can be done by lifting weights and doing other physical activities, such as climbing a rope or doing other exercises that improve grip.

Teamwork and communication

All the players have to work together to pull the rope simultaneously, which takes teamwork and talking to each other. Communication is very important because players have to work together and change their plans on the fly.

Each team is permitted to have a ‘driver’ who acts as a coach and gives orders to pull or rest.

Mental preparation and focus

In addition to physical preparation, tug of war requires mental preparation and focus. Even when things go wrong, players must stay focused on their goal and keep their minds on the game.

Introduction of Tug of War in modern sports

Tug of War was included in the modern Olympic Games for the first time in 1900 and remained in the Summer Games until 1920. Since then, Tug of War has been popular in many countries and featured in various international and national competitions.

Tug of War in the Olympic Games

Tug of War was an Olympic sport from 1900 to 1920. Afterwards, it was a demonstration sport in the 1988 Summer Olympics in Seoul, South Korea, and has been proposed as a demonstration sport for future Olympic Games. 


What is considered illegal in tug of war?

Lowering an elbow below the knee when pulling, also known as “locking”, and touching the ground for an extended period is considered illegal. Also, pulling the rope over the shoulders is against the tug of war rules.

Does tug of war have a time limit?

Yes, every tug has a one-minute limit, and the winning team must pull the other over the line. If no team manages to pull the other over the line at the end of the one minute, the team with the advantage wins.

What’s the secret to winning tug of war?

Teamwork is the secret to winning tug of war. Players should keep the feet forward of the knees at an angle. The team should pull as one to effectively use the pulling power.

Is tug of war a sport?

Yes, tug of war is a sport recognised by the International Olympics Commitee (IOC), and the Tug of War International Federation (TWIF) is the sport’s world governing body.

Is tug of war an Olympic sport?

No, but the modern version of tug of war became an Olympic sport in 1900 and was featured in the Summer Games until 1920.


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