Magical sport makes its way into the Muggle world
Jenny Boychuk (CUP)

VICTORIA (CUP) — It’s raw. It’s rough. It’s gaining momentum faster than Usain Bolt in the 100-metre dash.

It’s Quidditch.

The world’s newest sport, inspired by the Harry Potter franchise, hit the University of Victoria last November and started off with a mere eight members. Almost a year later, the club exceeds 90 players – 12 of whom will be attending the Quidditch World Cup in New York City on Nov. 12 and 13.

Anna Jessop, founder of Quidditch UVic, said the creation of the team was somewhat of a fluke.

“Last November, I was a community leader in residence, and the [Harry Potter and the] Deathly Hallows movie was coming out – so we thought we’d have a Harry Potter weekend,” says Jessop. “We had a movie marathon, a potions activity, and we thought it would be really cool to have a Quidditch match as well.”

At first, Jessop wasn’t sure how to mimic a sport that’s based on magic. After some research, she was shocked to find it’s played seriously in more than 300 universities and schools around the world.

“I looked online to find out how to play and I found the International Quidditch Association [IQA]. I found out that Quidditch is a worldwide sport, really popular in the United States: they have the World Cup, they have an official rule book – all of that,” says Jessop. “I was like, okay, let’s see what we can make out of this.”

This year’s World Cup will draw over 2 ,000 athletes to New York City and will feature teams from Finland, Argentina, and New Zealand. The event is hosted partially by New York University, the IQA, and Middlebury College in Vermont – where the game first originated in its nonfictional form.

In the Harry Potter books and movies, the golden snitch is a small gold ball with wings that flies about as it pleases. Each team has a “seeker” who tries to catch it, and when they do, the game ends. How does that work in real life?

“The snitch is a person who dresses up in all yellow and has a tennis ball in a sock which dangles out the back of his pants,” said UVic team member John Robertson. “He gets a head start – so at the beginning of the game, the snitch just books it in one direction. He already has the huge advantage of not having the broom – it’s really hard to run and only be able to use one arm to move.”

However, unlike in the movies, the snitch does more than simply fly around.

“He can push people over or interrupt plays or push over hoops – until someone catches him,” says Jessop. “As long as he consults with the referee before, then he can do whatever he wants.” Catching the snitch can be a challenge. “

He keeps to inside [a roadway boundary], that’s the limit. He’ll tell us if he has ideas of what he wants to do,” says Jessop. “Our first practice this year, he had a unicycle. Surprisingly, a seeker caught him while he was on the unicycle.”

Swiffer Sweepers, mops, walking sticks, tiki torches – almost anything goes as a broom, as long as it abides by the length requirements. Seem a little dangerous?

“If we don’t have brooms, it’s not Quidditch,” says Jessop, “but people do get speared by them.” “Surprisingly, not very often though,” adds Robertson.

“I anticipate it happening a lot more because now we’re stepping up the intensity – now it’s almost like a requirement that all of us wear mouth-guards, and some of us, especially those who are going to the World Cup, will be getting goggles,” says Jessop.

“There’s a website that sells Harry Potter novelty, and they are one of the big sponsors of the World Cup. [Brooms are] about $35 to $75. Our seeker has an awesome broom,” said Jessop.

“The beaters throw dodge balls at each other and if you get hit with one, it’s the knockout effect, so you have to dismount your broom because you ‘fell off.’ Then, you have to run back to the hoop and touch it,” explained Jessop.

Chasers score through the hoops with a quaffle – which, in Jessop’s case, is a red spraypainted volleyball.

“The World Cup will be providing top-of-the line Quidditch equipment, such as brooms, hoops and harder dodge balls. We’ll have to get used to that. Right now, they use a volleyball as a quaffle, too, but actual quaffles are being developed – with the actual indentations,” said Jessop.

The keeper defends the three hoops on their side while the seeker, who must be extremely athletic, chases the snitch until he or she is caught.

Jessop wants to heighten the Quidditch presence locally.

“We just submitted an application to become a sports club, so we’re really excited about that,” she says. “I’d really like to host an International Quidditch Association Western regional tournament because right now, Canada is considered a region.”

The club does face challenges, though.

“We want to find sponsorships, grants, and fundraisers – but when we tell them we’re Quidditch, that’s not always taken seriously,” explains Jessop. She adds that no one has been rude – they just want to know more because it’s different from traditional sport.

“It’s a sport that if you don’t fit into any other sport, you can play this one," says Jessop. "Which I think is the key thing. It’s an alternative sport – plus it’s fully co-ed, which if you think about it, no other sport is offered as only co-ed."

// Jenny Boychuk, The Martlette (University of Victoria)
// Illustration by Camille Segur

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