Magical sports not just for wizards anymore

By J_Howard

Students running around with broomsticks, shouting words like “snitch” and “quaffle” are becoming a common sight on campuses. College students across the nation proved quidditch is not a sport solely for wizards.

Quidditch was a fictional game in the “Harry Potter” book series by J.K. Rowling and was brought to life by students at Middlebury University in Vermont in 2005. It involves seven players on a field at once, each with different positions. The goals are to get the ball—or quaffle—to one of the three goal posts and capture the “snitch.”  or the tennis ball sock. And players must have a broom between their legs at all times.

“It’s as close as possible we can make it without the actual flying and magical balls,” said Katie Bell, member of the Prisoners of Azkaban quidditch team at Loyola University Chicago.

Loyola’s quidditch team began last year, gained club sport status this month and is one of the newest student organizations. On Nov. 13, the Prisoners of Azkaban beat out the Yarbling Yetis for the first place spot in their league with a record of 8-1.

“We knew we had to win the game, and they are our biggest opponent,” said Vickie Bain, beater for Prisoners of Azkaban.

There are two beaters on a quidditch team and their job is to throw balls—or bludgers—at their opponents who have control of the quaffle.

“We don’t get to score goals, and we can’t touch the balls that score,” Bain said. “But we have to hit with our ball any player [who] does score goals, and that’s fun.”

When a player is hit, he or she must run around his or her goal posts, eliminating time on the field, according to Erin Minne, Prisoners of Azkaban’s beater.

Bell said one of the biggest factual differences between the way the game is portrayed in the book and how it is played in real life is the snitch. Instead of a ball, the snitch is carried by a person running around campus away from the seekers, who are trying to get the tennis ball in a sock attached to his or her waistband, which acts as the snitch.

Peter Romaie, a senior at Loyola, was dressed in all yellow for the game on Nov. 13. His job was to run around campus confusing the seekers. He said his strategy was a lot like playing a game of hide-and-seek.

“Mostly just try and hide for as long as you can, and after that, let the seekers tire themselves out as they run through campus,” Romaie said.

Unlike the 150 points the snitch is worth in the books, it is worth only 30 points in the sport, according to Bell. When the snitch is caught, the game ends.

“I always love the end of the game,” Bell said. “The seekers are always battling it out for the snitch, that is my favorite part. When you see someone wave the tennis ball sock in the air, it is amazing.”

One of the rules and hardest adjustments for most players is running around with a broom between their legs, Bell said. Because quidditch is a contact sport, this can sometimes be difficult.

“We basically make it equivalent to if you were actually flying, you would not want to have a broom between your legs,” Bell said.

To train for this unique way of running, Bell said newcomers practice running how they would in a game for about a week.

“At first it’s a little awkward, but by the end, you don’t even realize it’s there,” Minne said.

Bell said after getting used to the broomstick, playing and training for quidditch makes for a great workout. She said a player can expect to be on the field for

quite some time, depending on game length.

“My team does 15 minutes of conditioning each practice,” Bell said. “It’s a lot of running. After that, typical practices deal with hand-eye coordination, so we do a lot of passing drills and trying to figure out how to get the ball moving.”

For team beaters, Bain said coordination is important.“[We do] lots of practice aiming and throwing the balls, knowing when and when not to throw it,”

she said.

Loyola’s quidditch teams have a good number of spectators, according to Bell.  Most of them are “Harry Potter” fans and are familiar with the sport.Lauren Reynolds, sophomore biology major at Loyola, said she has been to many quidditch games, and may join next semester.

“I think it’s really silly but really awesome,” Reynolds said. “People are just willing to run around with a broom for the sake of having fun.”