Sport encounters: Quidditch, but make it real

The real magic is in playing without magic.

Quidditch players fight over the Quaffle - Photo credit / Quidditch Canada

By: Marco Ovies, Staff Writer

Harry Potter was a major part of my childhood, so I knew about Quidditch. It was the sport that witches and wizards played on flying broomsticks. The sport that magically-endowed folk played by throwing balls through hoops while in mid-air. So, when my editor asked me to cover the Quidditch tournament that SFU was playing in, I was confused. Either this was some sort of fever dream I couldn’t wake up from, or flying broomsticks had been invented without my knowledge. Once he explained, I was expecting a bunch of nerds, like myself, running around with broomsticks between their legs, enacting their wildest Harry Potter fantasies. 

I don’t think I have ever been so wrong. 

Entering the stadium, the first thing I saw was a burly man, screaming, decked out entirely in yellow. I was told later that this was the Snitch, which struck me as odd given the tiny and fragile nature of the book’s Snitch. It was supposed to be a delicate little ball made of gold that the Seekers were dedicated to catching — not this muscled man that could have crushed me between his pinky fingers. 

Not only was the Snitch a lot more intense than I thought it would be, the entire game was also quite violent. Quidditch, I quickly discovered, is a full-contact sport. For those unaware of the workings of Quidditch, the game is played with six people from each team on the field at a time. There are four positions: the Keeper, who acts as a sort of goalie protecting three hoops; three Chasers who are trying to get the Quaffle (in this case, a volleyball) through one of the three hoops; two Beaters, tasked with trying to knock out other players with dodgeballs; and finally, there are Seekers, who are dedicated solely to trying to catch the Snitch. 

Technically, there is an additional player, the Snitch, who does not belong to either team. Game officials attach a tennis ball to the Snitch’s back, which the Seekers have to grab to end the game. The only way a game of Quidditch ends is when the Snitch is caught by either team, but catching the Snitch doesn’t guarantee a win. Since 10 points are awarded for each goal scored by Chasers, it is possible for a team to have enough points to remain in the lead despite the opposing team having earned the 30 points for catching the Snitch and ending the game. In other words, there is a strategic timing to when the Snitch is caught by either team, based on the current score.  

I was surprised by the strategies being executed by most teams at the tournament. Instead of one longer game, like I seem to remember from the Harry Potter movies, it felt like very short rounds that utilized bursts of speed rather than endurance. Each game would last a minute or two until the referee would blow the whistle and the teams would reset. 

The most challenging element of the game, in my eyes, was passing the Quaffle. Each catch had to be made with one hand, since the other was holding a broomstick. A huge factor in the challenge of passing is also the Beaters from the opposing team. If you get hit by a dodgeball from one of the Beaters, you have to drop your broomstick, and the Quaffle if you’re holding it, and run back to your hoops before you can rejoin the game. Between these two difficulty-enhancing factors, passing the Quaffle was rarely completed successfully. 

It was interesting, and quite difficult, trying to follow the play with so many different elements of the game in action at one time. Regardless, there was definitely never a moment that I was bored or questioned if Quidditch was a real sport. In all honesty, I can easily imagine Quidditch as a future Olympic event that I would gladly watch. Count me in for season tickets if a professional Quidditch team ever comes to Vancouver!