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Quidditch: A New Sport Sweeping the Nation

The trajectory of Harry Potter mania closely follows the timeline of our lives. When J.K. Rowling first published Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, most of us had just graduated from picture books to children’s novels. At least one of your friends probably made a Harry Potter-themed birthday party, where you and your closest friends marveled at the newest movie’s CGI effects while snacking on Bertie Bott’s Every Flavour Beans. As you grew older and your bedtime was extended past midnight, you joined the crowd at your local bookstore to wait for the release of Rowling’s latest book. Maybe you even stayed up into the wee hours, poring over the hardcover in your lap, entranced in the wizard world. And now, on your college campus, you might just see a group of students running around with broomsticks between their legs.

That’s right, Muggles: you, too, can play Quidditch.

College Quidditch got its start in 2005, when Middlebury College began offering the sport as an intramural activity. Two years later, Middlebury junior Alex Benepe founded the Intercollegiate Quidditch Association (IQA) to bring the sport to a national audience. With so many Harry Potter fans in college, it makes sense that Quidditch has taken off on campuses across the country. The IQA currently has 226 registered teams, twenty of which vied for Middlebury’s World Cup in October.

Muggle Quidditch 101: How to Play the Game

If you’ve never made the journey from Platform Nine-and-Three-Quarters (figuratively, of course), you may not know how to play Quidditch. Aside from the element of fantasy – and the broomstick factor – the game isn’t much different from other sports: the object is to score as many points as possible, and the team with the most points wins. Each team is composed of seven players, who must hold their broomsticks between their legs at all times, as uncomfortable as that may be.

Quidditch has four different positions:

  • Chasers. Each team has three Chasers, who score points for the team by advancing a large ball called a Quaffle down the field. They can pass the Quaffle between each other by throwing it or kicking it, and can run with the Quaffle for an unlimited amount of time. Chasers can score ten points for their team by throwing the Quaffle through one of the other team’s three goal hoops.
  • Keeper. The Keeper is the Quidditch equivalent of a goalie. He or she must protect the hoops from the opposing team’s chasers.
  • Beater. Two Beaters provide their team with extra defense. They attack all opposing players with small balls called Bludgers. Though J.K. Rowling’s original rules call for two Bludgers, the IQA uses three to ensure that each team is in possession of at least one at all times. If you’re hit by a Bludger, you must drop any ball that you are holding and circle your team’s Goal Zone before returning to play.
  • Seeker. The Seeker’s job is to seize the Snitch. The Snitch is a tennis ball, which is wrapped in a sock and tucked into the back of the shorts of the Snitch Runner, an impartial player dressed in yellow. Once a Seeker catches the Snitch, his team is awarded fifty points, play stops, and the final score is tallied.

Fierce Competition

“[Quidditch is] a full contact sport,” warns player Stacy Rush, “and it can get pretty rough.” Stacy, a Canadian student studying abroad at Harvard, is the founder and co-captain of the university’s Quidditch team, the Horntails. “I will neither confirm nor deny whether I was recruited to Harvard on a Quidditch scholarship,” she jokes. Stacy’s Potter passion is paying off: after just a few months, the Horntails became a recognized club sport with their own T-shirts and broomsticks. “Collectively, we aim to crush our opponents into a fine pulp and spread the noble name of Potter,” Stacy writes on the team’s webpage.

The Horntails were just one of twenty teams that road-tripped up to Middlebury College for the World Cup in October. Syracuse Quidditch, another up-and-coming team from Syracuse University led by sophomore Drew Shields, made the journey as well. Though he has never read the IQA rules or even opened a Harry Potter book, Drew has been hooked on Quidditch since a high school friend introduced him to the sport two summers ago. After participating in the Ive’s Pond Quidditch Club, he and his friends brought the sport back to their respective schools and started recruiting players.

“We don’t focus every week on the World Cup or anything like that,” Drew explains. “We just play Sandlot-style pickup games, picking teams and ending whenever we get tired. It’s competitive but never serious, fierce but always fun.”

Though Syracuse has yet to acknowledge the Quidditch team as an official club sport, Drew seems unfazed, enjoying the “rush” he gets from playing Chaser. “It’s exciting for me because I get to watch something I started grow and create excitement, while also [providing] an outlet for those who grew up with the Harry Potter series to live their dreams,” he says. “It makes people happy, and that’s all that really matters.”

Want to Play Quidditch?

Don’t hop on that broomstick just yet. You’ll need to assemble a Quidditch team for your school, and getting a large enough body count will take plenty of effort. Be sure to consult the Intercollegiate Quidditch Rules and Guidebook – not only does it lay down the rules of the game, but it also offers some handy tips for recruiting a Quidditch team. Be sure to find out your school’s policies on club creation, and try to find a faculty advisor—maybe a coach or a fellow Harry Potter fan! The next step is recruiting players—creating a Facebook group or advertising with fliers or email will probably draw a few players, but according to Benepe, “word of mouth goes a long way.” Odds are your school is full of Harry Potter fans eager to turn fantasy into reality.

Sources: Collegequidditch.com “Intecollegiate Quidditch Rules and Guidebook” by Alex Benepe
Stacy Rush, Harvard Quidditch Co-Captain
Drew Shields, Syracuse Quidditch Co-President

Hallie Santo is a sophomore at Wellesley College majoring in English with a concentration in creative writing. She is the programming director of her campus radio station, WZLY 91.5 fm, and a founding member of Wellesley’s new fashion magazine, Hey, Madeline. This past summer, the Long Island native interned at New Wave Media’s New York office and compiled Marine Technology Reporter’s annual MTR 100 list of leading subsea companies. Hallie hopes to continue working in the publishing industry after college as either a writer or editor while pursuing her passion for poetry in her spare time. She also loves yoga, vegan food, Russian novels, and ice hockey.
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