By Bex Peterson, Assistant Editor
Here’s a tired stereotype: How many jokes have we seen about nerds and geeks who hate sports? Well, there’s a full-contact sport on the rise in Canada born entirely out of nerd culture: Quidditch. Yes, it’s a real thing, and yes, there are brooms involved.
The practical game is a pretty close match to its magical Harry Potter counterpart. There are still three Chasers, two Beaters, and one Keeper per team, as well as Seekers who sub in when the “Snitch” (another player with a weighted flag dangling from their pants) enters the play. The “brooms” are broom-length poles that must be kept between the legs at all times throughout play, and there are three hoops of different heights set at either end of the pitch.
“It’s such a mishmash of already existing games that, to be honest, it feels like three different games are going on at once when the Snitch is out,” said Nathan Ross, chair of the Quidditch Canada Board of Directors, in an email interview with the Other Press.
Ross has been playing Quidditch for three years, and alongside their role with Quidditch Canada, is the captain, coach, and president of SFU Quidditch.
“I was a huge Harry Potter fan as a kid, doing the whole midnight release for the books,” said Ross. “I even did my one and only cosplay for the final movie as Severus Snape, before growing up and realizing that Severus Snape is trash.
“What interested me in playing was my love of team sports, and those that were as dumb as possible while also still being a blast to play and also still a competitive game. When I was accepted to SFU, I looked at the potential clubs I could join, and when I saw Quidditch was an option, I became instantly committed to the idea.”
Quidditch Canada as an organization is still quite young. It was founded July 1, 2014, but the organization has clear goals for the sport.
“We’re focused on the growth of the game within the country among other things,” said Ross.
Many of the goals of Quidditch Canada are focused on inclusivity, especially for all genders. Quidditch, as it was in the books, is a co-ed sport, and Quidditch Canada in particular also puts an emphasis on welcoming people from gender non-conforming backgrounds as well.
“Quidditch as a sport is far more inclusive than any that I have come across,” said Caitlin, a community Quidditch player who works with students with Special Needs in the school system, in an email interview with the Other Press. “Whether you are cisgender or a member of the LGBTQ+ community, there is a place for you on the field. During matches, there is a rule of ‘no more than four-to-one gender on the field at any given time,’ but if you are non-binary, genderfluid, or transgender, you are able to play at any given time…You meet people from all different walks of life, pay grades, cultures, and religions.”
Christina, a fourth-year general studies student at SFU and a member of the university’s Quidditch team, also spoke to the inclusivity of the sport.
“I think the best thing about Quidditch is how inclusive it is, both in terms of gender and skill set,” said Christina in an email interview. “Anyone can play because there’s no divisions based on gender, and the role of each position is so different from the others, so people with different abilities are included.”
“Quidditch is a great sport that is the most gender-inclusive sport that is currently available,” said Ross.
It can be a rough sport—tackles are legal in the game when played competitively, and Beaters are encouraged to take out members of the opposing team with their “Bludgers” (often dodgeballs), after which players must drop the Quaffle if they’re holding it and run back to their home goals to tag the hoops before re-entering play. The Snitch can use a multitude of tactics to evade capture by Seekers, including snatching their brooms away from them. Many might be drawn to the game for this reason, if they’re a fan of other contact sports such as football or rugby, but according to Ross there are options for those who prefer a less aggressive form of play.
“While the most competitive level is full contact, there is a growing development level that focuses more prominently on teamwork and fun rather than tackling, which is found to be a lot more encouraging for those who grow up reading the books and not playing rugby,” said Ross.
For those who didn’t grow up reading the books, players have insisted it’s not necessary to enjoy the sport for what it is.
“You need no knowledge of Harry Potter to play it, and it’s not just a sport derived from the Harry Potter series and brought into the real world,” said Jared Martin, Quidditch player and general sciences student, in an email interview with the Other Press. This was echoed by fellow players Caitlin and Christina.
“It’s not just a bunch of geeks riding around on brooms (most of the time),” said Caitlin. “There is a lot of strategy and skill that goes along with it…You have some people who have been Harry Potter fans for years, and some people who just came to a practice to see what it’s all about, liked it, and went home to read up on it.”
“I find that most of the people who I meet through Quidditch tend to be students or recent university graduates, so we have that in common,” said Christina, “but other than that, I don’t think that there’s really one common background that everyone shares, not even being fans of the Harry Potter books.”
The Quidditch community has been expanding outside the bounds of university grounds, running community pick-up games in Burnaby and Vancouver on alternating Tuesdays and Wednesdays throughout the summer. These games are often set close to transit stations (such as the park by Patterson SkyTrain Station) for ease of access, and joining a game is as simple as showing up.
“One thing I wish people knew about Quidditch is how fun it is,” said Christina. “Which, I know, sounds cheesy, but I always have a good time, and I wish more people would try it.”
“Bottom line is that if you were looking for a great game to play and have always been afraid of how ‘SPORTS SPORTS SPORTS!’ other team games have been but want the camaraderie of what it feels like to be parts of something bigger than yourself, you’d have a hard time finding a better option than Quidditch,” said Ross.
For more information on pick-up games and upcoming tournaments near you, including the fourth annual Vancouver Fantasy (VanFan) summer tourney, check out the Vancouver Quidditch League Facebook page.