By Laura Pappano
It may look like an excuse for college students to gather in a festival atmosphere. And on the surface, Quidditch, the Harry-Potter-inspired sport in which players ride on brooms (ok, run with them between their legs), is a reach.
But, then, basketball probably looked odd to those who first spotted boys at the YMCA in Springfield, MA in 1891 hoisting soccer balls into peach baskets.
Like basketball, Quidditch is not merely about the physical challenge of play and competition, but also reflects a social goal. Basketball, invented to occupy boys indoors during winter, embraced the late 1800’s belief in “Muscular Christianity.” Strengthen (men’s) bodies to insure they were vigorous, manly vessels for godly values.
Is Quidditch, then, a means for countering Voldemort? Well, no, it’s actually more reflective of 21st Century sport values, including gender equity.
Aimee Howarth, outreach director and member of the board of directors of the International Quidditch Association, spoke with FGN about the rising popularity of this campus sport – and it’s co-ed, gender fair karma.
FGN: How is the Quidditch you play, which has 7 players per team (3 Chasers, 2 Beaters, 1 Keeper and 1 Seeker), different from the Harry Potter books?
AH: The main difference is that we run instead of fly and the snitch is a person – we call them a snitch runner – dressed in gold or yellow. The goal is to knock people off their brooms. If you get hit by a bludger (we use dodgeballs) if you get hit by one of those have to run back to your goal post and you have to drop the quaffle [if you have it] or another bludger. The game ends when the snitch is caught. You get 10 points for getting the quaffle through the opposite goal posts (the quaffle is usually a volleyball or soccer ball slightly deflated so you can grab it).
FGN: Isn’t it hard to run with a broom?
AH: You get used to it. The hardest thing about running on a broom is you only have one hand for catching and throwing. Most people don’t even really notice it.
FGN: Can you use any kind of broom?
AH: We are working on getting an official broom. For the World Cup, we use Alivan’s brooms.
FGN: Where is the World Cup? How big an event is it?
AH: This year it will be November 12-13 at Randall’s Island in NYC. Last year we had 40,000 viewers and 46 teams competing. This year, we are expecting 80 teams.
FGN: How is this sport categorized on college campuses?
AH: We are a club sport. It’s not NCAA or anything like that. We are trying not to go in that direction because some of the uniqueness of our sport could be taken away.
FGN: You mentioned to me that this sport supports gender fair play? How?
AH: As a league we are co-ed and require at least two players [excluding the Seeker] to be of another gender. It is one of the only sports I’ve seen that makes that a rule. We don’t have any rule where if a woman or girl scores its like 2 points that you see in some leagues. We are thinking of requiring each position to be coed.
FGN: Why is that?
AH: We typically see more women players in the Beater position [defense] and more male players in the Chaser position [offense]. From a feminist standpoint that goes along with the Chaser being a more valued position because they score. That is not always the case, but its is something that we kind of noticed. So we are thinking of having offense and defense mixed sex. The board as a whole is committed to this [gender fairness].
FGN: You say this is a competitive sport. Do you have injuries?
AH: It is super competitive. Even though it is seen as a kind of a joke to people on the outside, it is super physical. The most common injuries? We have a lot of broken collarbones. We have had concussions. We haven’t had serious, serious injuries. Most often it is the shoulders, arms.
FGN: And after competition?
AH: Yes, after the World Cup everyone goes to get Butterbeer, which is actually beer with butterscotch in it, I think.