Quidditch: fantasy game sweeps college campuses

During a late practice at upper-arena field, while the men’s rugby team practiced on one side, two SIU quidditch club team members worked together on one-armed tackling techniques since they have to hold their broomstick with their other hand.

Quidditch, the sport made famous by J.K. Rowling’s “Harry Potter” series, has arrived on campus and offers both men and women an opportunity to play a full-contact co-ed sport.

Misty Benes, an undecided freshman from Huntley, said quidditch is the sport she has wanted to play since she learned it existed.

“This gives me a chance to do something that’s really physically active,” Benes said. “(Men) say women are far more whiney, but I look forward to hitting people.”

The game is played similarly to the book, excluding the flight aspect. Two teams play at a time, and each team consists of 21 players maximum — two of which must be a different gender than the other players. Only seven players from each team can play at a time. Three players are designated chasers, who try to throw the quaffle (the ball) through one of the opponents’ three hoops. Two players are beaters, and they throw or kick bludgers at opposing players to temporarily knock them out of play. One player is the keeper who defends his or her team’s hoops.

SIU quidditch team members line up their goal posts Monday before a scrimmage at the practice fields. The team
meets Mondays and Thursdays from 6-8 p.m. and Saturdays from 1-4 p.m. Will Walker, a junior from Elk Grove
Village studying mechanical engineering, said he would rate himself a five on a scale of one to 10 when it comes to
being a “Harry Potter” fan. “I heard about it last year when I saw it written on the sidewalk,” he said. “I just wanted
to run around on a broom and hit people.”

There is also a seeker who chases down the snitch runner and removes the snitch, scoring 30 points for his team and ending the game.

According to the International Quidditch Association, the game has been described as a mix between rugby, dodgeball and tag — all of which is performed while riding a broomstick.

Saluki quidditch was founded in spring 2012. Although this is the club’s inaugural season, club president Kelsea Bourland, sophomore from Marion studying physiology, said the team expects to function like other official teams.

“We would like to host tournaments … place high in the regionals and qualify for the (Division I) bracket in the Quidditch World Cup,” she said.

The Saluki quidditch club is part of the Midwest region, which includes Michigan State University, Illinois State University, Northern Illinois University and Purdue. Bourland said she wants the team to play at least five other regional teams this year, even if it requires the team to travel.

Bourland said the most unique aspect of quidditch is the golden snitch.

“The snitch (runner) is a person who doesn’t play for either team,” Bourland said. “The snitch must be grabbed from the runner’s belt. It’s kind of like flag football.”

The snitch runner is allowed to run without a broom around the entire snitch boundary. How the snitch runner decides to dodge seekers is up to him or her for added excitement. A snitch runner can ride a bike around the boundaries or throw water balloons at players, but the head referee must approve it before the match, according to the IQA.

Quidditch has some safety concerns since it is a full-contact sport. Aaron Carstens, a senior from Marion studying psychology and quidditch club vice president,  said tackling can be an issue for the sport.

“The entire league is trying to legalize tackles for Quidditch,” he said. “We try and teach our players to wrap as they tackle to decrease the risk of injury.”

Certain forms of physical contact are prohibited and warrant a penalty to serve as player protection. According to the IQA website, pushing or tackling made from behind a player is illegal, as the opponent must be able to see the tackle from his peripheral view. Grabbing another player’s broom or jersey is also illegal. Charging — when a player attempts to run through an opponent — is legal, but one can’t lower his shoulder into a player.

“Quidditch is the fastest growing college sport,” Carstens said. “And it is still growing, meaning it will improve and get better.”

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