The Magical Sport of Quidditch Comes to USF

 

“Brooms up!”

In the fading sunlight, seven people in a row jump from their kneeling positions and grab the PVC pipe resting next to them. With one hand holding it between their legs, they charge full speed ahead. On the opposite side of the field an identical row does the same thing. Players snatch up kickballs scattered across the field and begin tossing them to teammates or pegging them at opposing players. Let the mayhem begin; this is Quidditch.
Adapted from the Harry Potter book series by J.K. Rowling, Quidditch has been played on college campuses since its origins at Vermont’s Middlebury College in 2005. This year, Quidditch has finally come to the University of South Florida.

Six friends, called“the original six” by their teammates, decided in fall 2010 that they wanted to bring Quidditch to USF.

“The process for getting organized [was] intense. I knew in order to succeed we had to have a fan base,” said Lindsay Fussell, the captain of the USF Quidditch Team and an original organizer. Fussell and others worked to get Quidditch recognized as an official student organization and find other students as interested in building the team.

“I had seen the sport on YouTube and wanted to play more than anything so when I saw a USF team on Facebook I jumped all over that chance,” said Scott Thomas, a sophomore and president of USF Quidditch. “It looked like a fun, unique game to play. I think this is what college is all about, doing fun and silly things.”

Since its first official meeting on January 8th, USF Quidditch is now a registered student organization.

“At our first real meeting we played using trees,” Thomas said. Now the team holds practices four times a week in preparation for Swamp Cup, the Southeast regional championship held in Gainesville on March 18-20.

The rules and regulations of the game were established by the International Quidditch Association, a non-profit organization headed by Alex Benepe, the commissioner and president. It is now played across the nation and at several Florida schools including Florida International University, University of Miami, and Ringling.

“[The game] is partly true to the books,” Thomas said. “You have to run around with a broom and do everything with one hand.”

Quidditch is a mix between rugby and cricket. It is played with seven players on each side: three chasers, two beaters, one keeper and a seeker. The chasers move the “quaffle” down the field, trying to score in one of the opposing team’s three hoops. Beaters throw three “bludgers” or kickballs at other players to get them to drop the ball and return to their side. The seeker’s job is to catch the player called the “snitch.”

“The snitch causes mayhem,” Thomas said. “He steals the balls, hides the quaffle and knocks down the hoops. He is there for entertaining the crowd.” Zach Cornett is USF’s snitch.

“The snitch has set boundaries on campus. The players catch me with my tail, which is basically a tennis ball in a sock shoved down the back of my pants,” Cornett said. Cornett is friends with Fussell, who got him involved in the game. “Lindsay told me to play snitch because I am fast.”

The game is so physical and engaging that it allows for an eclectic group of players. Some students play out of sheer love for Harry Potter, and others stay due to the physical aspect.

“I have a friend who plays and I heard it was very physical. It is great conditioning,” said Sean Snipes, a freshman who has never read the Harry Potter books.

The team meets at the amphitheater outside the Marshall Student Center before practices and plays on the lawn surrounding the MLK Fountain. The team wants to advertise and get as many students interested as it can. This prime location in the center of campus allows for easy publicity, and countless people stop and ask questions during each practice.

“I thought it was cool and I am a Harry Potter fan,” said Kurrisa Vialet, a sophomore who saw the hoops and a game being played and decided to join.

 “I am happy to play a sport I can share with people I go to school with,” Fussell said. “It makes me excited when someone goes "Hey, they're playing Quidditch!" excitedly to their friends while we're setting up, playing or walking to our field with our hoops.”

*Photos by Daylina Miller