By EMILY GROTTLE
On the surface, the magical game of Quidditch from J.K. Rowling’s “Harry Potter” series may seem impossible to play in real life. But here at the University of Mary Washington, it is. Students practice and compete in tournaments against other colleges like any other sport.
Played on the ground with a PVC pipe constantly between one’s legs, Quidditch is a full contact co-ed sport that is a mixture of rugby, handball, football and other sports, and is played on a hockey-rink sized field. The game involves five balls including the snitch, and seven players from each team competing to score the most points in the three hoops set up at either end of the field. The game is over when the person carrying the snitch is caught.
The UMW Quidditch team is just one of the many teams in Virginia, around the United States and worldwide. Although it is a young sport, first played in 2005, it has gathered huge popularity among colleges and universities. Senior political science major Zachary Truex is one of the captains of the team and plays as a chaser and a seeker. “I decided to join the team with the influence of friends and because I thought it would be fun,” said Truex, who is in his second year with the team. “This semester has been a rebuilding phase for us. We lost a lot of seniors after graduation, but I have confidence that the team will be built back up – there’s a lot of promise from the newer players.”
Freshman English major Katie Hartraft is one of those promising new players. Playing as a chaser and keeper, this is her second semester playing for the team. “I was really excited when I found out that UMW had a Quidditch team,” Hartraft said. “I even looked up how to play the sport and read the rule book before I was on the team.” Hartraft said she likes the intensity of the sport, “I wish more people knew about our team. It really is a lot more aggressive than many people think.”
The sport can be played with the physical intensity of a rugby game at the highest levels, which many who join the team were not originally aware of.
“I wasn’t expecting Quidditch to be so physically rigorous and serious,” said junior biology major David Reith, who has been playing since his freshman year. Reith also plans on joining the Richmond Ravens, which is a community Quidditch team based out of Richmond, Virginia. Senior Spanish major and Quidditch team captain Lauren Meyer plays for the Ravens right now. “Being on a community team is the next level up from a college team,” Meyer said. “After that is Major League Quidditch.”
With two tournaments coming up for the team, Meyer is dedicated to building the team up. “I’m focusing on really explaining the sport to the newer players,” she explains. So far this year, the team has been to one tournament where they beat the William & Mary team and came very close to beating Salisbury. “I love being a captain because I love this sport and it is the most inclusive community I’ve been a part of,” Meyer said. “The sport is diverse and gender inclusive, and as long as you are willing to put in the work you will excel.”
Even though the sport may seem different on the outside, the level of play is quite intense and has a growing popularity, and the UMW Quidditch team is a dedicated group of students who have a genuine love for the sport and a strong respect for their fellow teammates. So before you assume that Quidditch is only a fictional sport, take a look at your UMW team, and you will see the intense level of play and dedication.