Playing Tag May Be About to Become a Global Sporting Phenomenon for Adults—And It’s Darn Competitive

Chase Tag
Sebastian Foucan at the World Chase Tag competition. Dani Devaux

You see it in playgrounds across the world. One child picks another as her target and chases him. She pursues him, getting closer and closer, until he is near enough to reach out and touch. “TAG,” she shouts at the point of contact, and then it’s his turn.

Tag is a game without language, without cost; one that can be played from the moment a child begins to run. It is synonymous with youth, the happy memories of an adult’s childhood. But now, a father and son have relaunched the sport to a new competitive level, one that combines the pace and rules of tag with the agility and skills of parkour.

Christian and Damien Devaux, who live half an hour west of London, are the founders of World Chase Tag. Here, Newsweek guides you through everything you need to know about the sport.

What is World Chase Tag (WCT)?

“Chase Tag,” Christian says, “is basically the game of tag done with obstacles.” The game can be played as individuals or multiplayer, and there can be up to four athletes on the course, with only one chaser.

How did it start?

In 2009, the Devaux family was doing a little gardening in their family home just outside Windsor, England. They came up with the idea to play tag, using garden rubbish, benches and bins as obstacles to run around. “And then it just grew from there,” Christian says. In 2014, they submitted a patent for the sport, then arranged its first event that summer. “We had meet-up sessions in Hyde Park with a bit of barrier tape and then into parkour gyms, and then we built our first course.” The following year, they named it Chase Tag. 

How do the matches work?

There are four different formats of games: team chase off, multiplayer, singles chase off and winner stays on.

In team chase off, there are two teams with up to six competitors. The match is divided into an agreed number of sets which consist of around 10 to 16 chases. During each chase, the chaser has 20 seconds to catch and tag his opponent, with the winner staying on to face the next opponent from the loser’s team. A point is awarded to the team that wins each chase.

Similarly, in the singles chase off, there are only two competitors in the match, but the winner is the first to get 10 points, and he or she must win by two clear points. In this game, the match is played in rounds, with competitors taking it in turns to be evader and chaser. Again, there are only 20 seconds to catch your opponent.

In multiplayer, four competitors are involved in each match, which consists of four 40-second rounds. But in this format, each round starts with a different athlete on tag, and it is the competitor with the lowest accumulated tag-time who wins.

What are the rules?  

The main rules for Chase Tag are that tags can only be made with a hand, and dangerous play is prohibited. Should a competitor step outside the arena, they are considered "tagged," while tag-backs are not allowed in any of the formats other than team chase off. In the winner stays on format, no points are awarded for a tag, but competitors who evade being tagged are awarded one point. Inevitably, the last remaining athlete has the most points and wins.

What skills do you need to play?

Who better to ask than the two-time WCT champion Marrero Gang, made up of Jamie De Smet, Greg Ball, James Kirsop Maine, Connor O'Carroll and Kieren Owen?

Ball: “You’ve got to be versatile. The main thing is training yourself not to react how you would react normally, because that’s just fight or flight. You’ve got to take a step back and relax and think, 'What do I need to do to get myself out of this situation,' not just run. I’d say it’s more a mental game than physical.”

Maine: “You can’t just do chasing or evading, you’ve got to be good at both.”

Owen: “A good competitor is having tactics, knowing kour [parkour], having kour experience, being physically strong and physically fit.”

O’Carroll: “That stamina has got to be up there. Like cardio, focusing on your breath is one of the main things. It’s the same as any sport, you look at the best fighters in the world; if you keep yourself under control, keep breathing and getting that oxygen in, then your muscles have the power; without that, you just fall over.”

What's next for WCT?

World domination, according to Christian and Damien: a global competition with the best teams and athletes from across the world. “We want to have an American qualifier, an Asian qualifier and a European qualifier, and then the winning teams will all qualify for the World Championships,” says Christian.