In my experience, perhaps the most common remark students tend to make after completing a tour of a particular university, especially one of the older, more established institutions on the East Coast, is just how much said institution resembles Hogwarts. While the truth of this remark may vary from institution to institution, it has done little to stop those of us who are still waiting for our Hogwarts acceptance letters from trying to bring a little of Hogwarts to our schools, wherever they are.
Thus it was that in 2005, a group of students at Middlebury College in Vermont created and introduced “quidditch.” Granted, while this form of quidditch, having become known as “muggle quidditch,” has been tweaked a bit in relation to its fictional counterpart in order to compensate for the lack of magical equipment, it has lost none of the magic it holds for the fans of Rowlings works. After all, since 2005, quidditch has become a truly international phenomenon, and is now being actively pursued across Europe and the Americas.
In fact, quidditch is particularly popular on college campuses. if you are attending or planning to attend a college or university in the western world, chances are that there will be a quidditch organization of some sort on campus, serving as a gathering for those who wish their athletic experience was a bit more like Harry Potter’s was at Hogwarts. But for those of you who haven’t read the books in a while, here’s a quick refresher on the basics of the game:
The Quaffle is usually a partially deflated volleyball that serves as the focus of the chasers and keepers. It is held by and passed between chasers and keepers. If it passes through the hoops of a given team from whichever way, 10 points is awarded to the team opposite of the given team. Given that most points scored in most games is scored via Quaffle, the play in most of any given game of quidditch is centered on the Quaffle. As such, the Quaffle, being the locus of intense and fast-paced play, tends to draw the most attention in quidditch.
Bludgers are partially deflated dodgeball that can only be held and thrown by beaters. There are three bludgers in play. Once a player has been hit by a bludger, a player must dismount their broom, drop any ball the Quaffle or Bludger they might have been carrying, run back to and touch his or her team’s brooms before mounting their broom again and jumping back into the game.
The (Golden) Snitch is usually a tennis ball placed at the bottom of yellow or golden long sock that is tucked in the shorts of a designated runner who is tasked with keeping the snitch out of the hands of seekers. Once the game starts, the runner begins to move, and the sock containing the tennis ball essentially acts as a tail. Once a seeker from either team manages to grab the Snitch, the game is over. The team whose seeker catches the Snitch is awarded 30 points.
Chasers are players who handle the Quaffle and try to put it through any one of the other team’s three hoops. Every time a Chaser accomplishes this feat, his/her team is rewarded with 10 points. A team is allowed up to three chasers on the pitch at any given time. Players wear white headbands to identify themselves as chasers.
Beaters have the arguably the best job in quidditch; they try to peg the opposing team’s players with bludgers. Each team fields two Beaters, thus making for the presence of four beters in any given game. Seeing as there are only three bludgers in a given game, the fourth bludger-less beater attempts to put pressure on the opposing team in various ways (i.e. blocking a bludger that was meant for a Chaser). Bludgers can be identified by their black headbands.
Keepers are essentially goalies; they block the Quaffle from going through their team’s hoops. As such, keepers are entitled to some perks, the most notable of which being invulnerability to bludgers. A team may field one keeper at a time. Occasionally, Keepers can choose to leave their hoops untended to act as a fourth Chaser when the situation demands it. Keepers wear green headbands.
Seekers attempt to catch the Snitch. Once the game commences, seekers must wait for a predetermined amount of time (usually a couple of minutes) to give the Snitch Runner a head start. Upon doing so, Seekers then attempt to track down and grab the Snitch. As mentioned above, a game of quidditch ends only once the Snitch is caught. It is therefore up to the Seeker to end the game. As such, the timing during which the Seeker chooses to capture the Snitch is of great strategic importance. Each team may field one Seeker at a time. Seekers are identified by yellow/gold headbands.
So Why Play?
Is that seriously a question? Aside from the reliable wealth of good company that is the Harry Potter fan community, quidditch might not be fun for everyone, but it’s certainly different. And isn’t college really just about being different? Besides, you get to play a sport in which you run around with a broom tucked between your legs! How many people can say that?
On a more seriously note, because quidditch has traditionally required that each team field at least 2 players who identify with a different gender than at least two other players, regardless of biological sex, quidditch has been at the forefront of promoting equality for women and the LGBT community in the sporting world. In fact, according to the Journal of Sport Management, a prominent human kinetics research journal, the inclusive, co-ed nature of quidditch has been associated with increased inclusivity and stereotype reduction among individual participants. In other words, playing quidditch does in fact make for better people. After all, your broom doesn’t have to fly to make your experience magical!