Author J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series has spawned six movies, seven video games and enough clothing to keep all of the Weasley children warm during winter.
It was only a matter of time, therefore, before the airborne quidditch game was adapted for landlocked muggles.
While not quite as popular as some Wisconsin club sports like ultimate Frisbee or baseball, the UW Badger Quidditch Team has found enough diehard Harry Potter enthusiasts in Madison to schedule biweekly practices and form a team in the Intercollegiate Quidditch Association.
“All of the regular [attendees] are really big fans,” UW senior and co-founder of the club Nikki Powers said. “The people just love Harry Potter, and we make Harry Potter jokes. … At the start of practice, we would do icebreakers with things like who is your favorite character or what is your favorite spell.”
Brought to Wisconsin by UW students Powers and Mary Howard in the spring 2009 semester, muggle quidditch started at Middlebury College in Vermont in 2005 and has spread to more than 150 campuses across the country since the first quaffle — a volleyball or soccer ball — found its way past a confunded keeper.
Originally hearing about the non-magical version of the wizarding world’s most popular game in 2007, Powers and Howard teamed up to bring their dream sport to Madison.
“I was reading about [muggle quidditch] in USA Today and I was like, ‘Awesome, we need to start a quidditch team in Madison!'” Powers said. “I mean think about it, you will never be in a bad mood going to quidditch practice.”
For those familiar with the books, the Muggle rules are fairly similar.
There are seven players to a side with three chasers, two beaters, a goaltender (or keeper) and a seeker. All players use a broom and they must have one hand on the broom at all times. Unlike at Hogwarts, however, most of the players will take turns at the different positions during a practice.
“Definitely the biggest challenge of playing is learning to use just one hand to catch and throw,” UW sophomore and team captain Kelly Dercks said. “It gets easier with time, and the ball is deflated slightly, so it is easier to grab and catch.”
Chasers try to put the quaffle past the keeper into one of three hula hoops held up by PVC pipe and duct tape, and each goal is worth 10 points.
For bludgers, the beaters throw dodge balls — there are three in play instead of two — and when a player is hit, he must drop the quaffle and circle his hoops before he can resume play.
The biggest difference in play (besides not flying of course) comes from Harry’s position, the seeker. Instead of a gold ball with memory flesh, the snitch is a human being (sometimes dressed in gold) who runs around with a tennis ball tied to the back of his or her shorts. Capturing the snitch is worth 50 points and ends the game, but the snitch is usually not “released” at the beginning of the match.
Just like the game where Harry has broken his arm and fallen 50 feet from his broom, physical play is common in muggle quidditch.
“It’s kind of like rugby rules,” Dercks said. “There are no major contact rules about it. So you can push, shove, just pretty much everything short of tackling.”
As an official club sport, the team has a website through UW and a Facebook group titled UW Badger Quidditch Team. For a sport that sees around 12 regular players and has about 25 total members, joining the quidditch team is as easy as just showing up.
“One day — I live right over in Kronshage — I was going to the Nat and I saw these people with brooms,” UW freshman Jaimielyn Burke said. “I was like, ‘Are you guys the quidditch team?’ and they said, ‘Yeah,’ so I asked how to join and they said, ‘Just come play right now.'”
Limited to scrimmages and practices currently, the team is hoping to face off against other colleges in the spring. As the only active quidditch club in Wisconsin, the sport played on brooms is still struggling to get off the ground.
“We are planning on playing other schools hopefully this spring,” Dercks said. “The Intercollegiate Quidditch Association … there are regional groups, so we are the Midwest regional coordinators.”
Although quidditch draws from soccer, basketball and rugby, the main factor bringing teammates together is a love of Harry Potter. Often giving their teams names such as “Felix Felicis” or “Patronus,” these fans prove that though Rowling may be done writing the books, readers aren’t done loving them.
“I think most of us are very avid fans and just needed another outlet to use our Harry Potter obsessions towards,” Dercks said. “It is really fun sport if you don’t read Harry Potter or aren’t a fan of Harry Potter, but most of us are definitely, definitely the hardcore Harry Potter fans.”