Outsider’s View on Quidditch

Photo by Quinn Wilson

Written by Eric Davis

Last weekend, I had the pleasure of spending a beautiful Kissimmee Saturday morning volunteering at the US Quidditch Cup 10. However, I had never seen the sport before in my life. I play highly competitive travel kickball for cash prizes across the country, so I am no stranger to obscure sports. Quidditch is derived from the Harry Potter book series where wizards fly around on broomsticks in a clear parody of popular British sports rugby, cricket, and soccer. I never read the books, nor remember the movies very well, so that’s about all I knew going into the tournament. If you’re reading this because you’re a fan of the wizarding world and are expecting a bunch of Harry Potter puns, even a batch of Felix Felisis won’t help for the rest of your read.

I arrived early in the morning to volunteer for a shift with my girlfriend. We didn’t really know what to expect, or even how the sport was played, but we had heard good things. Upon arrival there were very helpful signs posted in the ground that explained the general rules of the game. There is a headband coding system for the players, as certain roles can’t do certain things (more about that in a bit). The sign also gave a breakdown of the different balls/objects utilized. There is a quaffle – a mildly deflated volleyball – which is thrown through 3 different vertical hoops of varying sizes to score points. There are 3 bludgers, dodgeballs used to “beat” your opponents to force them to return to their own set of scoring rings, kind of like a reset. Those become very strategic on when and who to beat. There is also a “snitch” that comes out after 17 minutes of game time,  an actual human being that has to be caught by one of the teams’ seekers to end the game. There is a TON going on and it was quite hard to understand for the first game.

After a while, it  all started to make sense, though. There is a green headband worn by the keeper, that player can defend incoming shots and also join in with the offense. The white headbands are worn by chasers, who throw the volleyball, quaffle, around to each other and try to throw it through the rings. There were black headbands worn by the beaters, and they were the only ones who could throw the dodgeballs. After the snitch comes out, there is one player per team that wears a yellow headband, called the seeker,who attempts to snatch a dangling object that is near the snitch’sbutt.

It sounds crazy, and it sure is a spectacle to watch. Keep in mind ALL of this is happening while the players hold on to brooms in between their legs. It didn’t seem to slow them down much, running with a broom like that. Oh, and it’s a full contact, mixed gender sport. There were some HUGE tackles that I saw which really amped up the excitement for me.

The snitch/seeker battle was like its own event while the whole game was going on around it. The game “cannot end until the snitch is caught, and even then the game could continue if the catch results in a tie. Which by the way, is when the seeker grabs hold of the ball-shaped tail attached to the snitch’s shorts. Catching the snitch is worth 30 points, which really seemed to matter when teams seemed to score between 80 and 100 points. While the entire field is full of bludgers and quaffles flying around, tackles being made, and players running around, the 2 seekers are trying to grab the snitch for themselves while also keeping the other seeker from catching it. Keep in mind, it’s a FULL CONTACT sport, and the seekers have one hand on a broom the whole time. The snitch plays by no rules and is wearing bright yellow and gold from head to toe. The snitch is pulling the seekers’ brooms, which makes them have to reset. They are also throwing them to the ground, outrunning them, slapping hands away.  It was very intense! There may not be a more exciting moment in all of sports than when a team is trailing by 20 points and their seeker catches the snitch to both end the game and gain 30 points in a dramatic come from behind victory. The team would erupt and typically the seeker would be lifted up on the teammates shoulders. Very impressive stuff.

I thoroughly enjoyed my few hours at the 10th US Quidditch Cup and I’m excited to attend another event; maybe as a player this time around, who knows. The quidditch people have created a great sport with an awesome event. If you ever have the opportunity to watch it being played, I HIGHLY recommend you take a few minutes and watch.