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Beyond brooms and butter beer: Quidditch’s social conscience

November 11, 2011 – 4:56 PM

By Rachael Goldenberg

The fifth Quidditch World Cup happening this weekend on New York City’s Randall’s Island is looking like a bonafide event: 1) tickets are required 2) there is a halftime show, and 3) there are now some 100 teams (2,000 athletes) plus spectators.

But even as quidditch looks ever more like an NCAA sport (it’s not), it has retained it’s grassroots vibe, pairing competition with conscience. Starting Fall 2012, look for enforcement of – Title 9 ¾ — requiring teams (which have been dominated by guys of late) to have at least three women on the field at all times. (IQA CEO and Commissioner Alex Benepe explains at 3:25 in this YouTube video). The sport also looks to use it’s athletic-cum-magic aura to make a case for fairness on and off the pitch.

Of course, there is still a cup at stake. This weekend, expect top performances from names you don’t always hear shouted in the college sports world: Middlebury, University of Kansas (okay, so they are good at conventional and non-conventional sports), Emerson, McGill, and Vassar.


Jessie Haladyna, Wellesley College Class of 2012, who plays the (female-dominated) defensive  “beater” position, shared her views on the rule change, strategy, and the ethos of the game.

FGN: Why do you like playing Beater?

JH: It’s an aggressive position that requires both physical strength and a solid strategy.

FGN: What is your take on the gender debate? Why do men dominate the offense?

JH: It is disappointing but not unpredictable that it’s necessary to enact the new 4:3 ratio regulation. Quidditch teams typically have more male players than female, but it’s not because of sexist team captains. Quidditch integrates the world of nerdy science fiction fans with brute athletes and cocky jocks. More male athletes try out for this tackle sport than women, and every sci fi fan — male or female – is excited to make the world of Harry Potter come to life. If most of your talent at tryouts comes from male jocks, is it really sexist if they cut the less talented (albeit enthusiastic) Harry Potter fans?

That is how any other sport functions; the weakest players are cut. But if you think I am suggesting that all female players are weaker than the males, you are strongly mistaken. I have played teams whose most intimidating player and highest scorer was the female chaser. It is just hard to recruit athletic women to play the sport.

I fully support quidditch as a co-ed sport. It lets males and females compete equally and learn to value each others’ abilities and attributes. Personally, I love the chance to best both man and woman on the quidditch pitch!!!

FGN: As a former NCAA softball player, how does Quidditch compare?

JH: Quidditch rules are more similar to basketball, football and dodgeball than softball. Like many sports, in quidditch you must throw and catch with accuracy. Softball and quidditch are most similar in the strategy of the game. In softball, it benefits you to know the batter; if she pulls the ball to the left side of the field the defense would play her differently than if she preferred to take the outside pitch on a fly to right field. In comparison, as a beater, I observe each player early in the game to determine if our opponent’s offense or defense will be more of a threat; if their beaters shut down our chasers before they can get anywhere near the hoops, then I’ll concentrate on taking them out of play with my own bludgers. However, if a single chaser continuously breaks away to charge the hoops, I might change my strategy and mark him for the rest of the game.

FGN: Quidditch seems to have a growing philanthropic role.

JH + IQA: This World Cup, the International Quidditch Association (IQA) has partnered with The Harry Potter Alliance, to help promote its campaign for fair trade chocolate.  Outside of the Cup, the IQA makes an effort to share quidditch with children – Kidditch! – by supporting elementary school programs to encourage children to learn a sport driven by fair-play and enthusiasm for a magical book series!

FGN: Where is this sport going?

JH: Quidditch is only getting bigger from here! The IQA will continue to inspire young people to lead physically active and socially engaged lives.

Last year's Quidditch World Cup






























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