Pullers: Modern Day Gladiators

We’ve all heard about the Pull (if not then you must be an undercover Calvin student).  But seriously, when you first found out what the Pull was, what was your first reaction?  Was it something along the lines of “Really?? Tug of war???”  No matter what yours was, this was my first reaction.  I could not imagine a tug of war competition being one of the highlight events in the fall semester.  Ask me my thoughts now and I’d say that it is one of the most intense shows of physicality that I have ever seen.

Now don’t get me wrong, I’m a huge sports fan, having seen and participated in my fair share of athletic events but in every one, there is some sort of rest or halftime where the players can take some time to catch their breaths.  Pullers though are exerting themselves for 3 straight hours!

There are a lot of similarities between pullers and gladiators though.  Gladiators usually were slaves or volunteers that were thrown into an intense school specifically designed to train gladiators.  Granted pullers are only volunteers and not slaves, freshman pullers are thrown into a new school to (yes learn academic things) but where they volunteer and then train intensely for the Pull event itself.  

The practices themselves are physical strenuous.  I can only speak from what my freshman year roommate described to me since I was never myself involved in pull.  Over the course of 3 weeks, these men train together and bond through work outs, practices and the overall physical and mental strain of the event.  Gladiators also trained together.  They were bought and taken care of by trainers who owned the gladiator schools.  Physical and mental strain were all part of the job/position gladiator and also of pullers.

Once a gladiator has gone through all of his training, there is nothing more to do other than compete.  Imagine you are thrown in a dusty arena with people standing all around you cheering and screaming.  Suddenly you see your opponent across the arena begin moving towards you; the time has come to fight for your life.  You’re so focused staying alive that you no longer can hear the crowds, simply the clang of weapons, shields and the gasping breaths of yourself and your enemy.  As suddenly as it began, its over, you’re either staring down the blade of your sword at your opponent or staring up your opponent’s as he looms over you.  How did this happen? You can’t remember the fight itself.  Everything happened so fast but you can still feel your adrenaline racing through your wracked limbs.  The events themselves are also similar.  Hope students gathered around the pits yelling and cheering on their favorite puller while some are not even aware of the masses.  Their mind is focused on one thing: holding onto that rope as if their life depended on it.  Only when they’re looking down into the river filled with victors or staring up the banks at the defeated do they realize that its all over.

After sophomore year is over, then whats next for these warriors?  Some gladiators receive their freedom after doing well in their career of fighting.  Of those, some will open their very own gladiator schools, desiring to pass on their experience of the sport to the next generation.  Once again this is true for pullers.  Upon the completion of their second pull, pullers can become coaches for the next year’s squad.

Both sports require the utmost of physical and mental stamina.  Granted the Pull is not life threatening like a gladiatorial battle, they are both equally impressive.  After thousands of years, men continue to stretch themselves in many ways.  For those of you involved with pull, I tip my hat to you!

As for finding information, I drew upon things that I already knew but below are some interesting sites that I found while perusing the topic.






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