Tug of War Rules

Businesspeople in a Tug of War

For thousands of years, people from all over the world have enjoyed the game of tug of war. According to the Tug of War International Federation, ancient cults held ceremonies with contests of rope pulls. Nowadays, tug of war is a sport for elite athletes who compete in international competitions, but it's also a game played by children of all ages at home, during field day events and at parties.


Before the game, all the players must agree to the location. Choose a large, flat grassy area with no rocks, tree roots or sharp objects. Walk the field to make certain there are no unseen hazards. Mark the center line of the field using tape, landscaping spray, chalk or another piece of rope. Mark the winning line in a different color 10 feet on either side of the center line. Select teams that are even in number, strength, ability, size and gender.

Judge's Responsibilities

The judge measures the center point of the 120 foot game rope and marks it with a piece of brightly colored tape and a streamer. He then wraps a piece of tape around the rope 15 feet from the center on both sides to show the participants where the first person's hands will be. At this point, the judge will ready the teams and call start. When one team pulls the center streamer over the winning line on the field, the judge declares that team the winner. The judge should watch for rule violations.

The Line-Up

Players line up, putting the strongest member at the back. Alternate the players so one player is standing to the right of the rope, and the next is standing to the left. The first player in each line must have her hand behind the 15 foot tape mark. If her hand goes beyond that mark toward the rope's center, her team is disqualified. The players should be evenly spaced along the length of the rope.


After the judge checks each team's position, determines everyone is ready and signals the teams to start pulling using a whistle, his voice or other sound-making device, each team pulls on the rope as hard as possible, trying to pull the center streamer over the winning line on the ground. The first team to succeed wins. Set a 15 minute time limit for the game.


The judge is responsible for enforcing the rules. When playing tug of war, do not allow the participants to wear cleated shoes or boots with metal soles. Players should not put tape or glue on their hands. Tell the participants that sitting down while pulling is against the rules, and if they fall, they should immediately stand back up and continue pulling. Your team will automatically lose and forfeit the game if you break the rules.