KINGSTON, R.I., Sept. 26, 2012 -- Upon hearing that the University of Rhode Island has a quidditch team, one might wonder how muggles play a magical sport that, along with Harry Potter, sprang from the imagination of author J. K. Rowling.
This full-contact sport combines rugby, dodgeball, and tag to create a sweat-inducing workout with students running on brooms, instead of flying on them. A player dressed in bright yellow with a tennis ball in a sock tucked into his or her waistband replaces the elusive, golden snitch. The human snitch is free to run and hide on the open space of the URI Quadrangle and surrounding buildings.
“We’re the generation that grew up with Harry Potter,” said club president Zara Collier, 21, of Narragansett, as she watched team members run through drills during practice. “I’m really proud and honored to be part of quidditch and the quidditch community. It embodies what URI is all about - thinking big.”
In its third year on the Kingston campus, the co-ed quidditch team at URI is the brainchild of Collier, a junior, and several friends. Collier said the team has grown from seven members the first year to 20 last year to 35 this year. URI’s team was instrumental in bringing the 2012 Northeast Regional Quidditch Tournament to the Ocean State. To be held at Fort Adams State Park in Newport on Nov. 17 and 18, the regionals are a qualifier for the Quidditch World Cup in April 2013.
“Zara and her team stepped up with a great bid for this year’s tournament,” said Kristina Moy, Northeast regional director for the International Quidditch Association. “This is going to be a phenomenal event in a state that definitely deserves more recognition in the name of quidditch. Also, we’ll be making history—who else can say they’ve played quidditch in a fort?”
URI will host two quidditch matches this fall, the first will be Saturday, Sept. 29, against Brandeis University and the CAMPS Community Quidditch Team on the quad at 12:30 p.m. The public is invited.
In the Harry Potter books, quidditch enjoys a loyal following among its many fans and the sport’s regional and international competitions, including the Quidditch World Cup, are mentioned. And quidditch has leapt off book pages and movie screens and into reality. Its popularity has grown in the muggle, or non-magical, world since 2005 when it started at Middlebury College in Vermont. The International Quidditch Association lists hundreds of teams worldwide.
During practices and games, people walking on the quad spot the elevated ring-shaped goals, three on each side of the pitch, or field, and stop to watch. And, of course, there are the brooms, which each player is required to carry between their legs as if they were defying gravity. Brooms range from what look like Harry Potter’s own Nimbus 2000 to green, plastic household models. With seven players on each team, the play is fast-paced as students try to avoid being hit by bludgers (dodgeballs) while carrying the quaffle (a deflated volleyball) and scoring.
Collier, who is majoring in math, computer science, and anthropology, said she likes that even though the competition is fierce, players on opposing teams are nice to each other, helping each other up when they fall. She relishes the lighthearted moments, such as when a dance party breaks out during a break in the action or onlookers burst into applause when the snitch is caught, ending the game.
Erin Langton, 19, a sophomore anthropology major, was a seeker and beater for the team last year but a broken rib incurred during the team’s fundraising version of a Triwizard Tournament convinced her to referee this year. She is now the team’s treasurer and head referee, in charge of training other students who wish to referee the game as well.
From North Smithfield, Langton read Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, the second volume in the seven-book series, when she was in second grade. She was hooked. As she grew up, she attended midnight release parties for new books and she jokingly admits that she would love to visit Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, which Harry Potter attended, and take in a quidditch match. But it is her fellow players, who hail from all of URI’s seven colleges except the College of Business Administration, who make the experience a joy.
“I made my really good friends on the team,” she said with a smile.
The players high-five and hug each other easily and often; laughter is frequently heard during practice.
For more information on the 2012 Northeast Regional Tournament, visit http://www.internationalquidditch.org/2012/09/northeast-regional-tournament-announcement.