The sport of quidditch flew from the pages of Harry Potter and into a high-school gymnasium earlier this month.
Beverley Rockwell, who graduated from Sir John Franklin High School in 2016, brought her quidditch expertise back to the school for a lunch-time game during the student council’s Harry Potter spirit day.
“To the outside world, it still looks like that nerd sport from Harry Potter,” she said. “That’s what it started as but then it developed into something where we are actually a competitive sport with a world cup.”
Quidditch may have started on the pages of J.K. Rowling’s books, but it’s come a long way from there. Today it’s an international sport with more than 300 teams in 20 different countries. There are 21 teams with more than 400 players and 100 officials registered with Quidditch Canada.
Rockwell tried recreational quidditch before she moved to Edmonton to attend the University of Alberta. Now, she plays for the best team in the country, the Edmonton Aurors, who won the national championship, defeating the Guelph Gryphons in Victoria B.C., last month.
They may not actually fly like they do in the book but quidditch players move fast. Played between two teams, three chasers, like Rockwell, pass the quaffle (a slightly deflated volleyball) and try to score on any of the opposing team’s three hoops, guarded by a keeper. Meanwhile, two beaters attempt to knock the chasers off their game with bludgers, or small dodgeballs.
After 17 minutes of play, the snitch is released. In the books, this is a tiny, hard-to-spot and insidiously tricky winged ball. In real-life quidditch, it’s a unaffiliated player specially trained to race around the field with a snitch-tail attached to the back of their shorts. One seeker from each team attempt to snatch the snitch, ending the game.
And did we mention everyone except the snitch is riding brooms for all of this?
“It is very fast paced,” said Rockwell. “It’s very much like basketball where it’s like back and forth on the court at all times.”
So fast-paced the game requires seven referees per game – a head ref plus three assistants to watch bludger play, one to keep an eye on the snitch and two goal referees at either end of the pitch.
“The people who play it, and the people who are enthusiasts of it know that it’s an actual sport and it’s very likely that people can get concussions and other serious injuries from playing quidditch because our only protection is a mouth-guard,” said Rockwell.
But she says the sport is for everyone and can be played at any level, from just-for-fun nerdfests to high intensity international play. The game at Sir John was “elementary quidditch” to introduce the rules to students.
“You can play quidditch if you’ve never played a sport before, you can use it for cross training for other sports, or you can use it just as a fun activity to get out and get doing something,” said Rockwell.
Rockwell doesn’t have any plans to create a league in Yellowknife, although Quidditch Canada includes a guide for starting teams, either through schools or in communities.