“Brooms Up!” shouts the referee, and the game begins. Chasers zigzag around the pitch, trying to throw the Quaffle through a goal hoop while avoiding getting hit by a Beater’s Bludger. At the same time, the Seekers try to catch the Snitch. Everybody runs with a broom.
If you’re a fan of the Harry Potter series, you know that we’re talking about Quidditch – a sport played by wizards and witches in the books. What you might not know is that this magical sport has been recreated for the rest of us muggles (non-magical humans). In 2005, the very first game of Muggle Quidditch was played at Middlebury College in Vermont. Two years later, Middlebury played New York’s Vassar College in the first intercollegiate match. Today, there are hundreds of teams that are members of the International Quidditch Association (IQA). Alex Benepe is the IQA Commissioner. He works on growing the sport. “My main role is to make sure that the league is carrying out its long-term goals and upholding the values of the [IQA],” Benepe told TFK. (Scroll down to watch a video interview with Benepe.)
A Sport on Brooms
During his freshman year at Middlebury, Benepe and his friend Xander Manshel came up with the idea of Muggle Quidditch. They introduced their version of the sport to others. Soon, players everywhere were getting swept up in the excitement of the sport.
In November, 24 teams came to historic Fort Adams State Park, in Newport, Rhode Island, for the IQA’s Northeast Regional Championships. They competed for a chance to advance to the Quidditch World Cup VI, which will be held in Kissimmee, Florida, in April 2013. The park’s stone fortress and ocean-side setting gave the players and spectators the feeling that they were at the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.
Game play is also similar to the style Harry Potter and his classmates enjoy. Each team has seven players: three Chasers who wear white headbands; two Beaters who wear black headbands; one Keeper who wears a green headband; and one Seeker who wears a yellow headband. The game also features the Snitch. Instead of a small golden ball with wings, the Snitch is a single player dressed entirely in gold clothing, and a tennis ball stuffed in a sock hangs from his or her shorts. All players, except for the Snitch, must run around the field with a broom between their legs.
Muggle Quidditch is a fast and physical co-ed sport. Each team is required to have at least two players of each gender. It combines parts of dodge ball, rugby, lacrosse and tag–and even a bit of wrestling. During the game, the Chasers try to get the Quaffle (a volleyball) through one of three hoops guarded by the Keeper. The Beaters are defenders trying to knock out other players by hitting them with the Bludgers (three red dodge balls). While all of that is going on, the Seekers are trying to catch the Snitch by removing the sock from the Snitch’s waistband–sort of like flag football. Once the Snitch has been snatched, the game is over.
Most players were drawn to the game because of their love for J.K. Rowling’s fantasy novels. Once they play, however, they’re hooked on its fun and athleticism. “I’m obsessed with Harry Potter. It’s what drew me toward it,” said Marianne Anderson, a Beater for Middlebury. “But once you start playing, you realize it’s really, really fun.”
Most players were already athletes. “A lot of us came from playing other sports in high school,” says Tom Ford, a Seeker for Boston University—the team that took home the Northeast Regional Championship. “I ran track and cross-country.” Harvard’s Keeper, Ernest Afflu, was also a two-sport high school athlete. “We’re here because we think playing Quidditch is fun,” Afflu told TFK. “I think that’s definitely the best part about being part of a community like this.”