Muggles bring Quidditch to MU

Participants keep a broom between their legs at all times while playing.
Wendy Walden, founder of the Mizzou Quidditch Team, and Erin Weinrick decorate their broomsticks Nov. 24 in Peace Park. The broomsticks were decorated in preparation for the team's scrimmage Wednesday.

The fantasy world created by J.K. Rowling, author of the Harry Potter series, has broken through the boundaries of typical fiction in the form of Muggle Quidditch. Students at MU have formed their own team as a part of the International Quidditch Association, an incorporated nonprofit organization.

“We just want to have fun and get people together who like Harry Potter, because there are a lot of us,” sophomore Wendy Walden said.

The IQA put together a rulebook for Muggles and Squibs who would like to play Quidditch but are unable to fly or cast magical spells. Instead of using magical brooms, team members must hold a decorated broom between his or her legs at all times during the match. A cross-country runner, wearing a tennis ball stuffed in a sock, substitutes as the golden Snitch and is allowed to roam outside the field’s barriers.

Teams consist of three Chasers, two Beaters, a Keeper and a Seeker. Each player must identify his or her position by wearing a specific colored headband, and they are not allowed to make a play on any ball other than the one their position is designated to.

“I think it’s fun to play the sport in general,” freshman Blake Hildebrand said. “I mean, it’s pretty fun pretending to be on a broom knocking people over.”

Hildebrand said it was important for students to know MU Quidditch players aren’t crazy and don’t think they can actually fly.

Quidditch is a physical, full contact sport in which players are allowed to tackle and charge other players. However, dangerous or excessive force can be penalized — much like soccer — with yellow and red cards at the official’s discretion.

“Yeah, it’s a full contact sport, we have to have people sign waivers and everything,” Walden said.

The 92-page rulebook is a bit daunting for a sport which only exists in a fantasy world. To make sure teams play within the confines of the rules, the IQA recommends six referees — a head ref, and five assistants to officiate the Snitch, Bludgers (kickballs) and goal posts (hula-hoops on poles).

“I knew the rules from the book, as far as how you actually play and everything, but as far as the real-life game, there’s probably a whole bunch of things I had no idea about,” Hildebrand said.

MU’s team held its first scrimmage on Nov. 17, and will be holding another on Wednesday for interested students. Walden said almost 60 people joined MU Quidditch’s listserv, though only seven can take the field at a time. The team plans to hold tryouts sometime in the spring semester during which the competitive team will be selected.

Xander Manshell of Middlebury College adapted the game in 2005, and it was played as an intramural sport there until 2007. The IQA was then founded and the first intercollegiate match was held. The IQA now boasts teams from over 1,000 colleges and high schools across 13 countries.

“Quidditch is really physical and there’s kind of an element of fantasy because you’re riding on a broom,” sophomore Erin Weinrick said. “It combines everything I like: it’s a sport, and Harry Potter is something I grew up with.”

Contact group leader Wendy at mizzouquidditch@gmail.com to get involved.

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