Quidditch Isn’t Just for the Wizards Anymore

sb blacktips 2Ask anyone under the age of 70 who Harry Potter is and you are bound to evoke conversation or at least an acknowledging smile, considering one of the biggest literary successes of the 21st century is hands down J.K Rowling’s Harry Potter series. With eight feature films, a theme park, an interactive website, tons of merchandise, and much more, Harry Potter has grown to be a phenomenon all its own. Even after the final book and film, the magical world of Harry Potter continues to captivate and inspire the muggle world, and the latest Harry Potter attraction has people riding on broomsticks and chasing after a Golden Snitch.

Quidditch, the fictional competitive sport in the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, is increasingly transforming into a physically demanding, real-life sport on campuses all around the world. Acording to US Quidditch (USQ), a nonprofit dedicated to governing the sport of quidditch, Quidditch was adapted in 2005 at Middlebury College in Vermont and is now played at over 300 universities and high schools throughout North America, Australia, and Europe. USQ was founded in 2010, and annually hosts or sanctions around 25 events, including nine regional championships, the World Cup, International Open, Global Games, and QuidCon. Quidditch is steadily securing its place as one of the fastest growing collegiate club sports today, as well as becoming an internationally recognized sport.

Quidditch even has it’s own governing system; the International Quidditch Association, which organizes the World Cup, where teams from around the world come to compete to be named World Champion. This growing collegiate sport will soon be represented in the independent film industry with a documentary surrounding Quidditch coming out in the Fall. MUDBLOODS, directed by former UCLA film student Farzad Sangari, follows the UCLA Quidditch team as they make their way to the Fifth Annual Quidditch World Cup in New York City. Quidditch even made a prominent appearance in the hollywood filmThe Internship. 

With the growing success of muggle quidditch, it’s no surprise that Santa Barbara has its very own quidditch team. The Santa Barbara Blacktips, are an adult community quidditch team that started in 2012. It all started with Evan Bell, the founder of SB Blacktips and former captain. Bell now works for US Quidditch as a team representative for the southern California area. Bell was already involved in the quidditch community when he sought to develop one at Santa Barbara.

“I noticed Santa Barbara didn’t have a quidditch team and I thought it would thrive at UCSB,” said Bell. “I really wanted the challenge to start and grow it from the ground up.”

Quidditch, as a real-life competitive sport, is barely ten years old and yet it is already spreading like quick-fire both in the U.S. and internationally, with the majority of players being college students.

“I think it’s a game that particularly appeals to college students, and especially freshmen, looking for a new community to join,” said Bell. “Quidditch is a unique sport.”

Many of the SB Blacktip players agree that one special and enticing element to being a quidditch player is the strong community element that surrounds the game of quidditch.

“What’s really cool is the amazing community behind quidditch,” said Lee Weinsoff, a 2013 UCSB alum and SB Blacktip player. Weinsoff was able to make international connections and long lasting friendships with other quidditch players in both Scotland and Paris, when she studied abroad.

The game stays as true to the Harry Potter world as is possible. The basic game play consist of three chasers, who score goals worth 10 points with a volleyball called the quaffle. They can advance the ball down the field by running with it, passing it to teammates, or kicking it. Each team has a keeper who defends the goal hoops. Two beaters use dodgeballs called bludgers to hit other players. Any player hit by a bludger is out of play until they touch their own goals. Each team also has a seeker who tries to catch the snitch. Of course being muggles, the game of Quidditch needed to be adjusted slightly, so unlike the flying Golden snitch in Harry Potter,sb blacktips  the snitch is a ball attached to the waistband of the snitch runner, a neutral athlete in a yellow uniform who uses any means to avoid capture. The snitch is worth 30 points and its capture ends the game.

Quidditch is a full-contact sport and is just as physically and athletically demanding as rugby, soccer and basketball. And just as with any competitive sport, quidditch has its fair share of injuries associated with the game, the most common being sprains and concussions.

The SB Blacktips have had some serious injuries over the past two years. One captain popped her ACL, one beater broke her collarbone, and another player knocked out his front teeth.

Weinsoff can directly attest to the full-contact, physical aspect of quidditch, on her very first practice she got knocked off her broom and suffered a mild concussion, though Weinsoff had no reservations about returning to the quidditch field and she continues to play for them as a beater.

Quidditch definitely has the physical element of professional sports down but is still lacking the respect shown to other collegiate sports. Despite its increased media attention and its more mainstream recognition, some members of the SB Blacktips still feel quidditch has a way to go before it is officially taken seriously as a sport.

“I don’t think there will ever be major league quidditch…at best it will get to be at the level of ultimate frisbee,” said Lauren Mosley, UCSB 2012 alum and SB Blacktip player. “We get a lot of snarky reactions…sometimes when we practice people riding by will say stuff like, ‘ten points for Gryffindor.’

The association of quidditch with Harry Potter is understandably inevitable, though many quidditch players would like to separate the wizarding world from the real-life game of quidditch as much as possible.

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“I strive to separate myself from the Harry Potter world because I think that [association] is what scares people off the most,” said Weinsoff. “I don’t want people to be scared off because of that, especially hardcore athletes.”

The recruitment of athletes to the game of quidditch is a sought after prospect due to the physical and athletic nature of the game. Ruthie Stahl, a 2nd year UCSB Biology major and SB Blacktips team manager, acknowledges that the two top athletic abilities needed in quidditch are agility and ball handling skills. Playing quidditch is a full body exercise and a great cardio and bodybuilding workout.

“It’s definitely a full body workout…I’m in the best shape I’ve ever been in,” said Stahl.

The mix of diehard Harry Potter fans and serious athletes, adds an interesting dynamic to the game of quidditch.  This diversity can sometimes lead to intense debate over the nature of quidditch and its role as both a real-life sport and fictional game. Debate even surrounds the capitilaziton of quidditch, whether it should be capitalized or not, since it’s capitalized in the books, though most quidditch players agree that the name should be in lower case, since you don’t grammatically capitalize the title of other sports.

Despite ongoing debate, the game of quidditch does seem to be moving in the direction of a serious sport and less of a hobby for devoted Harry Potter fandoms. As Mosley mentions, in the early stages of the game many players used to play with capes on and other Harry Potter related garb but now players mostly play in athletic wear or team jerseys, further evidence of quidditch’s advancement into the competitive sport arena.

“I’m a Harry Potter fan, I always have been but I feel like quidditch is so much more than that…If quidditch is to survive and become a legit sport it’s going to need to disassociate from Harry Potter, and the way it’s moving it seems to be,” said Bell. “I have to be reminded sometimes that quidditch comes from Harry potter.”

The blacktips practice about twice a week and are always recruiting new players. If you’re a muggle interested in joining the team, the Blacktips will be practicing this summer at the UCSB Chem Lawn Thursdays at 6 pm and Saturday at Girsh Park at 2pm. You can also send them an email at [email protected].

Dust off your brooms and channel your inner Oliver Wood, and come play one of the most unique and rapid growing collegiate sports since ultimate frisbee.

“Quidditch is a sport, no matter what your definition of sport is—it has a governing body, hundreds of teams that play it, spectators who come out to watch it—there is a market for it, it’s been on TV, it’s played all over the world—no matter what your definition, it is a sport,” said Bell.

sb blacktips 5There are over 300 official quidditch teams and plenty of unofficial ones all around the world, so if you are interested in joining and finding a team near you or just want more information on this unique sport, check out the official US Quidditch website at http://www.usquidditch.org/

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