It’s that time of year again; the leaves start to fall, apples are ripe for picking and young people start running across open fields on broomsticks, hurling a deflated volleyball through hoops. Don’t be alarmed if you happen to come upon it; it’s a real sport! That’s right, athletic Harry Potter fans in the Northeast are gearing up for the next season of Quidditch.
Unless you’ve lived in the rainforest for the past decade-and-a-half, you probably know that Quidditch is the premier wizarding-world sport, dreamed up by J.K. Rowling in the Harry Potter Series. What you may not know is that there are people who play a real-world re-creation of the game, known to the public as Muggle Quidditch. In this part of New England, Muggle Quidditch is represented by the India Point Ashwinders and the URI Rhody Ridgebacks.
According to Harry Potter lore, the sport is named for the Queerditch Marsh, thought to be the site of the first ever game. A cranky witch named Gertie Keddle lived near the marsh around 1050 and recorded her account of a mysterious game some pesky wizards were playing near her home.
The game’s origins in the realm of reality are a bit less mystical; the game was first played in 2005 when Xander Manshel, then a freshman at Middlebury College in Vermont, was bored one Sunday. He and his friends laid the groundwork of the game that day, and later that year, the first game snowballed into an entire intermural tournament with seven teams.
The Ashwinders and the Ridgebacks compete with seven other Rhode Island, Connecticut and Massachusetts teams in the Southern New England Quidditch conference (SNEQC). Each team plays about 11 games between September and March, capping off the season with the SNEQC Cup. With less than smooth beginnings, the Ashwinders persevered, independently funding and organizing their squad after being rejected by their university. The Ridgebacks were founded by five students in 2010 and have grown to 25 members.
In the wizarding world, the score is based on points scored by throwing the main ball, known as the quaffle, through one of three hoops on the other team’s side. Each team has three chasers who are responsible for handling the quaffle, two beaters who protect their teammates from the dangerous bludgers (flying balls), a keeper to protect the goals, and a seeker to fly around and search for the golden snitch, which is worth 150 points.
Unfortunately, everything on this planet is subject to the laws of gravity, so the game had to be tweaked a bit for human play. Believe it or not, Muggle Quiddich is a full contact sport; throughout the game, defenseman tackle offensive players on the opposing team in hopes of derailing their path to the hoops. The bludgers are dodgeballs, and players hit with them have to sit out temporarily. Perhaps the most creative aspect of the game is the snitch, which is a tennis ball in the hands of a player who feverishly runs around the field, avoiding capture. Only the seeker can try to catch it, and it’s only worth 30 points, so it’s not as game-changing as in the novel. All this makes for fast-paced, high-octane gameplay, even if it is on the ground.
If you’ve never heard of the sport, it may sound like a fringe movement, but its popularity has grown steadily in the past decade. It’s played at over 300 universities and high schools throughout the U.S., and has even made its way to Europe and Australia. The International Quidditch Association (IQA) is the sport’s official governing body, and it is dedicated to “inspiring young people to lead physically active and socially engaged lives.”
You’re never too old to indulge your magical side, so get out and take in some Quidditch. If you’re really interested, send an owl to your local team to find out about signing up!