UCSD Quidditch team picks up speed and winning players
By Emily DeRuy
With the final Harry Potter movie in theaters, kids and adults alike have J. K. Rowling’s magical world on their minds. Students at UCSD, however, have taken their adoration of the literary series a bit further, bringing to life the magical sport of Quidditch. Friends Megan Alcalay and Hannah Green founded the Quidditch team, called Expecto Patritons, last year as sophomores, and the response has been overwhelmingly positive.
“Hannah and I thought so many schools across the U.S. have teams, UCSD needs a Quidditch team,” Alcalay said. “We made a Facebook group, generated interest, and had enough people for eight teams. About 60 people committed, but as many as 80 sometimes show up.”
Currently classified as a “recreation-based student organization,” the Quidditch team is overseen by the university’s Recreation Department, which has permitted the club to use the fields at Muir College twice a week. The eight teams are restricted, however, to games with each other due to risk-management concerns. Additionally, as a club, the team is eligible for some Associated Student funding, just like any other student-run organization, but beyond that, team members rely on fundraising.
“Quidditch is fairly new in our region,” said Liz Henry, director of Assistant Sports and Recreation Clubs. “Players might have more opportunity to compete in the future. The club does seem to spark a lot of attention. We’re always happy for students when they can use a campus space and do what they love.”
In Rowling’s books, witches and wizards play Quidditch by flying above a field on broomsticks, gaining points in two ways. One, by throwing a ball called a quaffle through any one of three hoops at each end of the field for 10 points, and two, by catching a small, moving golden ball called a snitch for 150 points.
A seeker has the task of finding the snitch, at which point the game is over.
The snitch can fly outside the bounds of the field and be caught at any time, making each game unique in terms of playing time and space. Those attempting to score using a quaffle face goalkeepers at the hoops, and all players face beaters, who wield heavy bludgers, balls they sling at their opponents.
At UCSD and colleges nationwide, the rules have been adapted for Muggle (non-magic folks) play. Begun in 2005 at Middlebury College in Vermont with ever-changing guidelines, rules are now maintained by the International Quidditch Association, a New York nonprofit with nearly 100 registered teams and more than double that number of unofficial teams.
Players run around a field on broomsticks, one hand on the broom at all times. If hit with a bludger, players dismount and run a lap around the field. Donning yellow with the snitch attached at the waist using a sock, the snitch runner is granted a 3- to 5-minute lead, which can be used to hide, but the snitch must present itself at the field periodically.
“The playing field is like soccer, we use kickball balls as bludgers, we have a few track stars and triathletes that run snitch. It’s a neat sport because it draws a diverse group of people,” Alcalay said. “We have triathletes and rugby players, but also have people who just like Harry Potter.”
Alcalay has some changes in mind (more team bonding, more community service) but whatever the team did in its fledgling year is working. In April, a group unaffiliated with UCSD but all students there, placed third overall and 26th in the nation at the Western Quidditch Cup in Los Angeles.
Mostly, the students just enjoy playing the game.
“Quidditch is different from other sports,” said Nicholas Johnsen, a captain of one of UCSD’s teams. “The objective is to enjoy being a part of a fantastical game that engages players in a fantastical culture.”
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