Let me share my perspective and vision for the sport of Tug of War in South Africa with you …

Things will not happen by themselves…. if we do not MAKE things happen, they will not happen! We need to create the future – by planning for it, and by putting the necessary strategies and actions in place to make them happen.

We would be wasting our time if we do not have well-planned strategies that are executed with DILIGENCE and DISCIPLINE.

In our Tug-of-War sport, we have the privilege of various underlying realities, age-old truths and non-negotiable building blocks – all hard-earned in the past. This includes strong clubs, healthy competition, good technique, combinations, maximum time on the rope, blind faith and absolute trust in the pullers in front of and behind you … BUT this is not enough.

A. We have choices: we have the choice to just participate – and there is a time and a place for this – or we can choose to be the best – and aim for gold.

SATF must ensure that both happen: development and fun-based participation on a broad base – but also, performance on the highest level.

My questions are: Why and how can a small town in Sweden with only 200 inhabitants, be the Tug of War World Champions? Why and how can Taiwan change seamlessly from Indoor to Outdoor competitions, and be virtually ‘untouchable’?

How can a school team from Worcester or Swellendam be world champions, yet we cannot pull this through to the U23 (where in 2012 we performed the best ever by obtaining a silver medal), or seniors?

I therefore cannot accept the lack of performance on senior level. I am convinced that we are good enough to win gold in the senior divisions too, and we are good enough to win gold at the World Games. THIS IS NOT NEGOTIABLE!!

B. The question is – HOW?


In 1996 we implemented a 6-year strategy and detailed action plan (with a lot less funding and resources than what SATF today has at its disposal) to achieve the following goals at the 2002 World Championships:

•To use this as a platform to broaden the participation base of Tug of War;
•To use this as a platform to build the image of Tug of War as a modern sport;
•To build a healthy nest-egg for the Federation’s activities; and
•To win medals.

We did not specify the colors of the medals that we wanted to win, but the seniors won 3 silver and 1 bronze. Unfortunately the juniors did not perform well that year, but all the objectives were mostly achieved.

How did this happen?
1. A good plan was executed diligently.
2. We had good and dedicated coaching and management teams that imposed discipline.
3. We had a group of exceptional pullers who were self-disciplined and gave their all for 3-4 years in order to fulfill their dreams.
4. We prepared for the specific type of competition ground, and thoroughly drilled our teams’ pulling style accordingly.

In 2010, on the same ground, with a lot of the same athletes on board, the wheels fell off – why?

Firstly – our competitors did not allow themselves to be caught out again, and also practiced for the specific competition conditions. Secondly – we seemed to have the attitude that all we needed to do was pitch up at a competition, and we WOULD win medals!


Therefore Vision 2018+:

The world, and the Tug of War world specifically, has moved on since then. We will therefore have to come up with a new game plan, but the underlying principles and diligent execution will be the same.

The 6 characteristics of success in the future will be:
1. Uniqueness / Differentiation
2. Focus
3. A global orientation
4. Innovation
5. Sensitive radar – be alert and be prepared to learn from others
6. The ability to attract young people/talent and to keep them interested in our sport

How do we interpret this in a Tug of War context?
I do not have all the answers, but what I DO know is that we will have to adapt, and think and act with a new and refreshed perspective.

To this end, we will have to work together. We must get the following aspects right:
1. We MUST pull the U18 / U23’s through to senior level. Over the next 5 – 10 years, we must start building the next generation of senior teams with a winner’s mentality. Get the mindset right: if you are chosen for a national team, you have not achieved anything – apart from earning the responsibility to perform! That’s when the hard work starts.
2. We must adapt our practice and testing methods – what can we learn from other sports? Scientific preparation – and resources – are required.
3. We must prepare properly, and plan for success – it will not happen on its own.
4. To develop and conform to transformation requirements/community development (as required in order to obtain funding), we will need to employ a fulltime development officer.
5. We must build a bridge between school and seniors’ divisions.
6. We must have a sound financial model in place that will permit us to bring coaches and touring teams to South Africa, and to be able to send our teams overseas.
7. We must develop a new 5-year strategy in order to hold the 2018 World Championships in Cape Town (or 2020 if we don’t get 2018), and to ensure that our seniors win gold medals!
8. We must perform and grow – there must be a balance. In order to obtain funding, we have to develop. In order to develop, we have to perform – but these cannot be at the expense of each other. Statistics show that our base is growing well – we just need to find the correct balance.

We cannot do this individually – but together we can, if we all ‘buy in’ to the bigger picture.

That is the very essence of our sport – team work and the collective being more than the sum of the individual parts.

Please join us in this journey – it will be hard work, but it will be fun. And ultimately – highly satisfactory.

Anton Rabe