Unless you’ve been living under a rock you’ve probably heard of Harry Potter. What non Harry Potter fans might not know though is that Quidditch is now a sport. Just like the book, there are 4 different positions keepers, beaters, chasers and seekers. To represent the broom players have to run around with a stick, which at first glance makes the sport look a bit ridiculous. Despite this though, quidditch has experienced fast growth for a new sport. After being brought to life in the United States in 2005, it is now played all over the world, including in Calgary. There are international competitions known as World Cups and rules are set out from two governing bodies the International Quidditch Association and United States Quidditch.
So how has quidditch, a sport that even its own players will admit looks a bit silly grown so fast ?
People were first attracted to quidditch because of its Harry Potter connection. For fans of Harry Potter it was a chance for them to celebrate Harry Potter with fellow fans, connect more with what they had read about in books and don costumes and Harry Potter related apparel. For many of these Harry Potter fans it was the first team sport that they played and the first sport that they had any interest in. Instead of being attracted to the traditional elements sports are marketed with like Olympic medals, athleticism or competition they were drawn to getting to live out part of a story that they had imagined through the books or movies. And while the last book in the original series was published ten years ago, many kids trying the sport today are still drawn to it through Harry Potter and share the same narrative to getting involved.
While Harry Potter fans may not have been drawn to the game’s athleticism, for athletes that enter the sport, it’s one of the main draws. Quidditch is a full contact game combining elements of handball, rugby, ultimate frisbee and dodgeball all with players on sticks. With 12-14 players on sticks, 4 balls and 6 hoops(goals) along with a snitch released at the end, quidditch is a fast paced game with lots going on. Some of the players now have never read the books and are content simply to play quidditch as a sport.
Another draw for many people is that quidditch is mixed gender. A mixture of male and female identify players always have to be active with a maximum of four players that identify as the same gender on the pitch at once. Gender fluid and non binary players are also welcomed, prompting Vice to declare quidditch the most progressive sport in the world.
Quidditch’s inclusiveness, diversity and background shape the sport’s unique atmosphere. It balances being a competitive sport while also being inclusive and fun. Quidditch is known for welcoming anybody that is brave enough to put a broom between their legs, so much so that one of the first things players that move do is find a quidditch team in their area because they know they’ll be welcomed. While it has a diverse group of participants, players quickly bond with their teammates, united through their drive to get better at the sport. The competitiveness and drive of players has caused quidditch to lose some of its eccentricities and become more of a serious sport. Players have ditched capes and costumes for more traditional sports apparel like jerseys, mouth guards and cleats. Simple PVC pipe is now used over orante brooms because of it’s durability and sleeker form. The broom, whatever material it is made of serves a good reminder that the game was based off of a children’s book and players are supposed to be having fun. While players at all levels are extremely competitive and the speed, intensity and physicality of sport can lead to accidents and arguments on the pitch, games still end in hugs. The uniqueness of quidditch has not only made players devoted to playing, but also to growing the sport.
In Calgary the first quidditch team was started in 2012, out of a University of Calgary Harry Potter club. Lauren Yee who created the club and the first quidditch team learned how to play quidditch through a Skype conversation. The first practice she scheduled only attracted five participants. Since then Calgary’s quidditch scene has grown to 3 recreational teams and 1 competitive team with Yee and other players working to try and continue this growth. Regularly scheduled matches will be held between the Calgary quidditch teams this fall, with the hopes that it be a prelude to a Calgary quidditch league with more teams. There are also plans for a children’s program to launch.
Yee, who has been an integral part of starting most of the quidditch teams in Calgary is dedicated to growing the sport because she loves the atmosphere and how it can attract people that aren’t into traditional sports. While she played soccer as a child, sports didn’t interest her as a teen or adult until she found quidditch. Since then she’s become a lot more interested in getting active in her daily life. She hears similar stories from many parents whose kids try quidditch and gets positive feedback from anyone that has tried the sport. The biggest obstacle for her in growing the sport is its perception as a nerd sport. People are still reluctant to run around with a broom between their legs because they don’t want to look silly.
If you’re interested in trying Quidditch out, all of the quidditch teams in Calgary welcome new members. Membership fees are kept low to try and keep the sport accessible to everyone. There is also a free drop in Monday nights from 6:30-8 until the end of August for kids and adults. Both the recreational teams and drop in are low contact. All you need to bring is a water bottle though cleats and a mouthguard may be helpful if you have them. For more information check out https://calgaryquidditch.ca/.
All photos from the Kelpie Kup in Calgary shot and edited by Mills Photography.