For members of the University of Alberta quidditch club, the game is a complex and rewarding sport, not just something out of the Harry Potter franchise.
Now in its second year, the U of A quidditch club is partnering with the Edmonton Aurors, the local competitive team, in bringing the game to campus. There’s no flying involved, there are no heavy iron bludgers being hurled at players (it’s a dodgeball instead,) and there’s no golden snitch buzzing around either (it’s a tennis ball attached to a snitch runner). But the club’s organizers say it’s the sport itself that keeps them playing, not just the Harry Potter connection. They’re currently holding weekly practices on Wednesdays at Varsity Field from 7:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m.
“People come because they like Harry Potter,” said Chris Radojewski, who coaches the club. “That is generally the biggest gateway to quidditch. But athletically it’s a cool sport.”
For those who’ve never seen the sport being played, Radojewski describes it as a mix of many sports. The part where chasers try to score points on the opposing team’s hoops is like rugby or handball, the part where seekers try to catch the snitch from the snitch runner is like flag football, and throwing bludgers at the opposing team is similar to dodgeball.
“On the field, I’m a beater because I like throwing things at people,” said Cayley Mendoza, the vice-president of the club.
Mendoza has been playing the sport for about two and a half years, starting with playing for the Edmonton Aurors. To her, the complexity of beating and controlling how everyone else moves on the field is one of the things she enjoys most about the sport.
“If you come from any sporting background, there is something you can bring to the table,” Radojewski said. “If you have some skills, you can usually fit them in and use them as a starting point to make the game fun.”
Another thing that makes quidditch fun is the community, according to Radojewski.
“There’s a bunch of cool people that come into the sport,” he said. “Some of them are nerds, some of them are more athletic. I wouldn’t say jocks, but we do have some jocks. But the idea is you get this tight-knit community like a lot of clubs offer that is something that is fun to do once or twice a week.”
But the one characteristic that makes the sport unique, according to Mendoza and Radojewski, is the inclusivity. Quidditch has a gender maximum rule where within the six to seven people on the field, only a maximum of four people of the same gender identity can play on the field at once.
“Something really powerful that that does is that it enshrines diversity in the field,” Mendoza said. “It carves out a space for people who are binary-trans identities or non-binary-trans identities, people who don’t fall into the traditional categories of male and female that are often overlooked in sports.”
Practices will be held at Varsity Field, near the Butterdome, until they transition indoors for the winter. Mendoza says newcomers better come prepared for the outdoors.
“One pro-tip is definitely, if you ever come out to a practice, bring water, running shoes and some bug spray because the mosquitoes can be nasty,” she said.