How I Started Playing Quidditch — And Yes It’s A Real Sport

Photo: Eric Lynch Photography / Facebook
quidditch tackle quaffle bludger
Self

When I was still in high school and my older sister was gearing up for college, we took her to all the campus tours she wanted to go to.

I have family in Boston, and my sister was thinking about pursuing something in the arts — photography or drawing or something — so we decided to go for a tour at Emerson.

Boston was not new to me. I’d been to the Boston Common many times before and even hung out there with some of my friends, but this time was a little different.

I saw some poles with hoops attached to them, as well as a bunch of people running around with pipes in between their legs.

There were balls being thrown everywhere and it seemed chaotic and crazy — but that’s also why it kind of looked like fun.

“What the hell is that?” I asked my sister. “Oh, that’s Quidditch,” was her response —  like it was the most normal thing in the world.

“Wait, that's real?” was my immediate reaction. To which she replied, “Yeah of course.”

Real life Quidditch exists. Here's how I got in. 

I was never a huge fan of Harry Potter. I never read any of the books before I joined the sport, but I watched all of the movies. The movies are fantastic, but they don’t really go above and beyond that for me.

Of course, Quidditch was introduced to me by the movies, but I always thought of it as sort of a side story — another way that Harry needed to prove himself and not be an outcast, by being the best seeker ever.

It was crazy to me that people grabbed this side story from a fiction series and turned it into a real game, which is exactly what it is. I never thought it was funny or weird or thought those people were nerds — I was more in awe.

So when I finally got to college and attended the Rutgers University of New Brunswick, I was no longer surprised by the fact that teams were popping up everywhere.

In high school I had always played some sort of sport; football, track, I dabbled in a bit of soccer and volleyball too, but I never really took anything super seriously. For me, it was just about staying in shape.

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And that’s exactly what I was looking for in college. During my first Involvement Fair — a place for freshmen and sophomores to join clubs and communities — I looked for a club sport to join that would help me stay in shape but also sounded like fun.

There was the Kendo club, Water Polo, there was even a casual running club for all skill levels where people would just run around campus as a group, but when I saw that hoop behind one of the tables it immediately drew my attention.

I signed up and began my Quidditch career.

The first thing you should know about Quidditch: it’s hard.

If I had to compare it to any other sports in intensity, speed, and strategy, I would compare it to rugby and basketball.

Real life Quidditch is full contact — which means there's a lot of tackling and wrapping and getting taken to the ground — and it’s also co-ed and gender-inclusive, even including rules that don’t allow gender exclusivity in-game.

But the game itself is hard to master. There are so many different intertwining concepts that all work together and alone in order to keep the game moving forward, and the barrier to entry can feel a little high sometimes.

So, how many players are on a Quidditch team? 

There are 4 different Quidditch positions: keeper, chaser, beater, and seeker. 

The game is 6v6 until snitch is on pitch, so the split goes: 1 keeper, 3 chasers and 2 beaters.

Keepers and chasers both play with the same ball — the ‘quaffle’, which is the scoring ball, usually a volleyball — except keepers stay at the hoops on defense to defend shots and drives. Besides that, they’re practically interchangeable.

Beaters play with the ‘bludgers’ — a chaotic tool used to disrupt players and plays, it’s usually a dodgeball. 

The beater’s job also isn’t unlike dodgeball. 

When they throw their bludger at a player, that player needs to dismount from their “broom” (no longer a real broom and now a PVC pipe), leave the play and drop whatever ball they might have been holding, and touch their team's hoops to get back into play.

There are only 3 bludgers on the field and 4 beaters (2 per team) so teams are constantly fighting for “bludger control,” which gives a huge offensive and defensive advantage.

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The Quidditch snitch is real, too. 

Finally, the snitch and the seekers. The snitch is a third-party player, usually someone who is either very big and strong or very athletic. The snitch has specially designed shorts that hold a tube sock with a tennis ball inside of it and a handhold that the seekers need to grab.

Snitch play is almost an entirely different game that all happens on the same field at the same time but only starts later in the game. 

Whichever team catches the snitch gets 30 points and ends the game, at least in official US Quidditch (USQ) games. In Major League Quidditch games (MLQ), the catching team gets 35 points and play continues until the set score is reached.

Quidditch is a lot bigger than you'd expect it to be, and the community is unlike any other.

There are over 120 teams in the US Quidditch Association, the governing body of college and community Quidditch in the US.

When I first joined, I had no idea what I was in for — all I wanted was to have fun while staying in shape. What I got was lifelong friendships, an ongoing sports career that has lasted almost 6 years so far, and a passion for a sport that I have never felt for any sport I'd played previously.

I’ve met loads of people from all over the world because of Quidditch. My first trip to Paris was with some of my beloved teammates. I’ve gone all over the country: Texas, Florida, the Carolinas, Upstate New York, Virginia.

I’ve laughed, I’ve cried, I’ve yelled, and almost died many times.

Boy, have I yelled. Some of the best days I’ve had are waking up the day after the Regional or National tournament and noticing that my voice is completely gone from all the cheering and screaming.

There’s just something about the camaraderie of it all. Everyone that plays real life Quidditch is there giving their all. There’s competition but there’s also a mutual respect and understanding.

We’re all there for the same reason: to play this fictional sport we love to call Quidditch.

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Isaac Serna-Diez is a writer who focuses on entertainment and news, social justice and relationships.