For students who grew up waiting for their Hogwarts letters, the newest club at UMW will provide these “Muggles”, or non-magic people, with a taste of wizarding life.
Made popular by the “Harry Potter” book series, Quidditch has found its niche on college campuses across the globe. According to the official Web site of the Intercollegiate Quidditch Association (IQA), there are currently 226 teams in international colleges and universities, 11 of which are located in Virginia.
Sophomore Emily Thomas, the UMW club president, found out about the real-life version of this magical sport from rumors flying from other Virginia schools, namely William and Mary and Virginia Commonwealth University.
Thomas was immediately interested in starting a similar club here at UMW. While a club is in the works right now, she hopes Quidditch will soon be recognized as an intramural sport on campus.
She used Facebook and word-of-mouth to spread the word about the new club but found a lot of interest in the “From Cinderella to Harry Potter: Fairy Tales and Fantasy Literature” freshman seminar class.
“We have a lot of freshmen,” she said. “We went to the eight a.m. section [of the seminar] to get the word out.”
Thomas said most of the freshmen who joined are enrolled in this popular seminar class, taught by Assistant Professor of English Maya Mathur. Thomas herself was a student in this seminar last year.
“Ever since I was 11, [Harry Potter] has influenced every aspect of my life,” Thomas said. “It basically guarantees I will never have a date at Mary Washington.”
While Harry Potter is a big part of many of the player’s lives, there is one club member who has never read any of the books or seen the movies.
Freshman Kelsey Witt said that her friends convinced her to go to the interest meeting, and she joined because she thought it sounded like fun.
Co-Vice President, or “Prefect” Sarah Smethurst said the books are an integral part of being on the team, and jokingly said Witt was on the team with the expectation of reading the books soon.
“We really did want to make that a requirement of the club,” Smethurst said. “It’s a big unifying factor.”
While Quidditch is quickly becoming a popular sport for many Harry Potter fans, some may be skeptical as to how a Muggle would manage to play this magical sport.
In real life, Quidditch adheres to the same basic guidelines of the sport to which all Hogwarts students are accustomed.
“We utilize broomsticks. We use all the same rules from the games,” Thomas said.
Each player is expected to hold a broom between his or her legs throughout the entirety of the game. The balls used are volleyballs, dodgeballs, and a running player dressed in yellow as the Snitch.
“You will get dirty, you will get bruised, you will get bloody…this is not for children,” Thomas said.
The object of Quidditch is simple: catch the Snitch. The team that catches the Snitch first immediately gains 150 points for their team, according to the original Harry Potter rules.
In order to compensate for various cultural differences between the Muggle and wizarding world, some changes have been made to the rules. One example is running around the goal when hit by a Bludger, to simulate the time falling off a broom and getting back up, according to Smethurst.
However, throughout the game, players are given the opportunity to score extra points by throwing a Quaffle (a volleyball) through a magical hoop (for Muggles, a PCV pipe and hula hoop spray painted gold). Each goal gives the scoring team ten points, whereas catching the Snitch automatically garners 50 points, based on the Muggle guidelines.
In the Harry Potter books, Quidditch is played on teams with seven players, with the positions of one Keeper (goalie), three Chasers (comparable to a forward, running back, or receiver), two Beaters, and a Seeker. The job of the Beaters is to either divert or hit a Bludger (a dodgeball) to either impair the opponent or protect their team.
The Snitch, as described by Oliver Wood in the movie adaptation of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, is “wicked fast, and damn near impossible to see.”
The catch of this illustrious ball, or fast runner in real-life, marks the end of the game. Only the Seeker has the ability to catch the ball to make it count for the points.
Though right now the logistics of the club are still being worked out, Thomas said practices will start next semester and will be held three times a week for around two hours. The games are expected to be held on the weekends.
In the original Harry Potter books, Quidditch is the cultural equivalent to football or soccer. There is a widely popular World Cup tournament, which brings the best teams of wizards and witches to compete for the championship.
In the non-fiction variation of Quidditch, the IQA holds an annual Intercollegiate World Cup, sparking competition this past October between 25 national universities at Middlebury College.
The competition has been held at this Vermont college since the sports formation, as it was founded there in 2005 as an intramural league, according to collegequidditch.com.
Smethurst said that it is the goal of the UMW team to go to the IQA World Cup by 2011.
Currently, the UMW club is not registered with the IQA but plans to join in the near future. Club officers have also been discussing a possible creation of a league strictly for Virginia colleges and universities with the William and Mary club.
Next semester, UMW hopes to join these Virginia schools, including the aforementioned VCU and William and Mary, but also the University of Virginia, Virginia Tech, George Mason University, James Madison University, Old Dominion University, and Christopher Newport University in the IQA.
So far, the team has held several information and interest meetings and will begin training in the spring. Practices are expected to be held on Ball Circle until they are officially recognized as an intramural sport.
“All you need is a broom and a complete knowledge of the Harry Potter series and you’re good to go,” Smethurst said.