The first thing that comes to most students’ minds when they hear “The Pull” is that it’s a cult or it’s weird. And I’m not going to lie, these thoughts crossed my mind. This may be because you see the Even and Odd Year teams chanting cheers while running around campus in strange voices. Or you see them by their practice pits where the pullers are doing squats and the moralers are on their knees in position counting again in those strange voices. However, if I have learned one thing from my experience with The Pull, it is that it builds a community. It builds a second family away from home. It may be weird, but it forms one unique community together.
I only joined the pull about a week before the actual event, but I embraced every bit of it. From the three-hour practices — ones I actually only attended twice — to the nightly meetings where the dress code seemed to always be formal. I won’t say that I had no hesitation, but reflecting back, I am absolutely sure that I made the right decision in saying yes, and I wish I had said so sooner.
Because I joined about two weeks late, I didn’t know everyone as well as they knew each other. However, every puller, moraler and coach welcomed and supported me like I had been there the whole time. I was only able to morale for my puller on that Saturday because of each and every one of them. The coaches worked with my busy schedule, other moralers helped me learn call signs and chants and pullers encouraged me every single day.
The Pull is full of traditions. That’s why it’s 123 years old and has only been canceled a total of five times — mostly due to World Wars. This event is older than almost every single building on campus and has even been written about in a 1996 edition of Sports Illustrated. You may think it’s weird to hold a campus-wide tug-of-war, but let me ask you this: does Calvin University have a tradition like this? Does the University of Michigan have a tradition like this? No, and that is what makes the Pull at Hope College so special. Within The Pull, traditions like the annual rope run the day before occur where each puller and moraler of both Even and Odd years come together and run with the rope around campus chanting, “Even year,” and, “Odd year.” Yes, this looks somewhat ridiculous, but it is a tradition designed to gather all of campus for the day that follows. It is the first time that both teams will see each other face to face. This event allows for a healthy rivalry between students at Hope. And although historically this rivalry has been intense, both teams respect the hard work and effort that the other gives come Pull day. It takes both Even and Odd years to make Pull happen and to make this tradition last. This year, the Pull made many historical strides. The Even year team had their first pit 17 female puller. Odd year had the largest quantity of female pullers and the first male moraler.
After talking with a lot of friends, I realized you can’t explain this crazy event until you go. Multiple people have told me that they planned to go for 30 minutes, but once they got there they couldn’t leave. You wouldn’t think 26 men and women pulling on a rope would be as entertaining as it is. Hope shut down 11th Street for the event and helped provide food trucks for spectators. Many of the participants’ family members and past alumni come to watch this historical tradition take place every single year.
During The Pull this year, I had a notably unique experience because of my puller, Matthew Stafford (’24). The Pull isn’t just fun and games. Each and every puller on both sides is putting their body to the test to reach their fullest potential. Stafford did just that. The surreal experience of witnessing each and every one of our pullers do this is something that I will never forget.
What I am trying to say here is that The Pull can give off a weird, culty and strange vibe before you witness or understand it. But within this student organization, it built a bond with each and every puller, moraler and coach. Win or lose, this group of people will forever be connected. It created another friend group on campus that I can always sit with at Phelps Dining Hall, hang out with on a Friday night and turn to if I am going through something hard. Alumni from the Even Year Pull teams come back to support the current team and this tradition. They sat out all night on October 1 and watered and perfected our pits for the next day. These alumni came back from their jobs and their lives just to keep this tradition alive. If that is not a family, then what is? There is a reason that the Even Year Pull team is known as the family pull team.