During a recent Chestnut Hill College tour, high school senior Caitlin Kain noticed something odd upon arrival: the soccer field was filled with students running around on broomsticks, slinging balls and tackling each other. “I remember entering the school and tons of people were walking around with witch hats and costumes, and I was totally confused,” Kain recalls.
After the initial shock, she learned that Chestnut Hill College is one of many reputable campuses all over America (Arcadia is the only other in the Philly area) that plays intercollegiate Quidditch, the Harry Potter series’ fictitious sport. Puzzled? So is the athletics department. Manicured lawns once used for studying are now the fields for bringing this fantasy game to life. More than beer pong or Guitar Hero, Quidditch has infiltrated hundreds of campuses across the U.S. and abroad, going so far as to spawn two Intercollegiate Quidditch World Cups. After Vermont’s Middlebury College adapted the sport for “muggles,” it spread like wildfire. This summer, this campus phenomenon was featured in a trailer for the most recent film adaptation, “Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince.”
While some consider the sport a mix of rugby, flag football, tag and dodgeball plus broomsticks, one Chestnut Hill students calls it a game of “strategy and finesse.” If you’re familiar with Harry Potter’s rules, the premise on campuses is the same. “Chasers” score goals by throwing “Quaffles” (volleyballs) through giant hoops; “Beaters” throw “Bludgers” (dodgeballs) at Chasers to knock them out; “Keepers” protect their team’s goals. (Click here for the Official Intercollegiate Quidditch Rules and Guidebook.)
The Snitch, originally a speedy golden ball with wings in the movie, is the game’s object of desire. In the real-life matches, the Snitch is a cross-country runner dressed in head-to-toe gold, allowed to run anywhere on campus (not without ridicule of other students not privy to the game). Each team’s “Seeker” vies to catch the Snitch, ending the game and giving their team an additional 30 points. And don’t forget: the broom must remain between your legs at all times. It adds up to entertainment and hilarity for players and spectators, but fans will agree that the sport is no joke.
If it’s any indicator of the game’s seriousness, the 2008 Quidditch World Cup hosted Princeton University, Louisiana State University, Washington State University, Chestnut Hill College, McGill University and Boston University, among others. While Vermont’s Middlebury College took first place and New York’s Vassar College took second, Philly’s own Chestnut Hill College took third place, just two weeks after their first game ever. Ask any competitor: a World Cup championship comes with bruises, battle wounds and for some lucky players, a concussion or two.
Chestnut Hill College hosted Philly’s first Quidditch tournament last fall to much fanfare, with more than 50 competing students, faculty coaches and media coverage. This year promises to bring together even more talented muggles, so bring your witch hats and capes on October 2 to witness the phenomenon firsthand. (For the record, the witch hats and costumes didn’t scare Caitlin Kain away. She’ll begin her freshman year at Chestnut Hill College this fall.)
Ready to take your secret Harry Potter obsession to the next level? Become your college’s Quidditch commissioner. Here’s how:
Register your college’s team. Email Commissioner@CollegeQuidditch.com or click here. Once you’ve registered with the Intercollegiate Quidditch Association, you’ll receive an official Quidditch guidebook, which is “restricted to limited online distribution.” Feel special yet?
Find area colleges to play against. To be a fierce competitor in the College Quidditch World Cup, starting small is imperative. If you’re in the Philly area, Chestnut Hill College and Arcadia University are local opponents, with many other schools throughout Pennsylvania building teams. Click here and e-mail your area’s regional director.
Pitch the household cleaning brooms. To legitimize your Quidditch team, invest in Alivan’s handmade Wizard Brooms; they’re the perfect size and last through even the most brutal matches. Click here to see their selection, from the Scarlet Hawk to the Sienna Storm.
When asked what he wants to do with his life, Max Kaplan's response often involves quiet mumbling and the word Quidditch. He loves photography, traveling, design and pronouncing IKEA product names. His hometown of Gettysburg is jealous that Aroundphilly.com snatched him up first.
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