How one sport has traveled the distance — from imaginations to books, from movies to now real life

Thousands of spectators endured the sharp winds of New York City, cheering their teams on to victory. Athletes ran from one end of the field to the other; sweat dripping down their faces, sheer determination reflecting in their eyes.

From an outside perspective, this looked like any other sports game. But if one really took in everything around them, they would smell the delicious scent of Quaffle Waffles and see certain university students run around the fields all dressed in gold spandex with a dangling ping pong ball secured on their buttocks.

But most importantly, they would notice the athletes on these teams running around with a broomstick in between their legs.

Ah, the 5th Annual Quidditch World Cup

For those of you wondering what Quidditch is, it was born from J. K. Rowling’s famous magical series, Harry Potter.  The book version is similar to the “muggle” version (non-magical version) but with a few important changes.

At the World Cup in New York, players do not fly on broomsticks. Secondly, the balls do not fly either. The players in the “muggle” version throw the balls at each other.

In short, it is a game that consists of two opposing teams. Each team includes seven players — three chasers, two beaters, one seeker and one keeper. The chasers score the points, throwing a large ball called a quaffle into three hoops of the opposing team’s.

The keeper protects those hoops, very much like a goalie. The beaters try to take out the opposing players by throwing bludgers (mid-sized balls) at the players on the opposite teams in the hopes of taking the players out of the game for a couple of minutes.

The seeker is the player on the team who chases after the snitch (the person in gold running around the field). The seeker who catches the snitch ends the game.

Quidditch athletes await the referee’s whistle to start the game.
Photo by: Lauren Gilbart

This year, the Quidditch World Cup was held at Randall’s Island in New York City from Nov. 12-13. The Cup includes teams from all over the world, including four teams from Canada. But just because the University of Calgary’s team didn’t play at the Cup doesn’t mean that Quidditch isn’t important to them.

Quidditch in Calgary. . .   And Beyond

 Josh Nadeau is a recent graduate of the University of Calgary and played on the university’s Quidditch team up until his graduation.  Even though he is no longer officially on the team, he is still very active in the Quidditch community.

 He plays the sport for fundraisers, teaches Quidditch to those at The Boys and Girls Club, and will soon be educating elementary students on the unique sport.

“Media attention helped bridge the gap between books and sports,” Nadeau said.

“Adults know kids are really into Harry Potter and so they started thinking of ways to bridge the gap between books and sports. That’s where we come in. It’s a really interesting game and it gets people incorporating more physical activity into their lives.”

Muggles in Ottawa . . .

At Carleton University in Ontario, Quidditch has become a way of life for its Quidditch team. And their hard work paid off — they were one of the four Canadian teams that played at the World Cup.

Mike Wark, from Carleton University, prepares to take the Quidditch World Cup by storm.
Photo courtesy of Mike Wark

One of Carleton’s field captains, Mike Wark, has been playing on the team for the past two years. After moving from Calgary to study political science at Carleton, Wark joined the Quidditch team right away.

However his decision had nothing to do with loyalty to Harry Potter.

“A lot of the decision to join the Carleton team had to do with the very ridiculousness of the sport and my fascination over discovering a full contact, co-ed sport combining elements of rugby, dodgeball, and tag all in the same game,” Wark explained.

 “As a former rugby player and cross-country runner in high school, Quidditch also intrigued me for its athletic potential, and I wanted to see how this game would function, given its obvious quirks. It didn’t disappoint.”

 

 

Quidditch: It’s not a joke

 Of course, seeing as Quidditch is directly related to Harry Potter, it’s been difficult to prove to the other students that Quidditch deserves the chance to be viewed as a real sport, Wark said. At Carleton University, some people were outraged at the idea of Quidditch being a part of the university’s athletics department, whereas others loved the idea of the game.

 Mike Wark recalled one memorable moment last year, when Carleton’s rugby team came out to the Quidditch team’s skills workshop.

“Members of the rugby team originally regarded our team rather patronizingly and as a bit of a joke, up until the point where a member of our team offered a rugby player a broomstick and asked him how to perform a tackle with one hand, while holding the broom between his legs,” Wark said.

“Shortly afterwards, the rugby team took off — I believe their leader’s words were, ‘This game is freaking crazy!’”

 At the Quidditch World Cup, though, it didn’t matter who was there as a Harry Potter fan or a Quidditch fan. Christilynn Botti is from Connecticut and a hard-core Harry Potter fan.

 To her, Quidditch is more than just the game that was created in J. K. Rowling’s imagination; instead, Quidditch is proof that literacy can change the world.

 “It was one thing to see Quidditch being played in the movies,” Botti said, “but it’s another thing to see it being played in real life. It’s so cool thinking that it’s all over the world and is considered to be an actual sport. But to me, the World Cup is so much more than just Quidditch — it’s the chance to spend the weekend with awesome people, enjoying every Harry Potter-induced moment.

 lgilbart@cjournal.ca