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Think Quidditch is a game just for Harry Potter fans? Think again. Quidditch is definitely not for couch potatoes. Or the faint of heart. It may be based on a fictional activity but it combines speed, strength, endurance (along with a bit of mischief) and a caliber of athleticism that rivals any mainstream sport.

This weekend, the fifth annual Quidditch World Cup, organized by the very real International Quidditch Association (IQA) sweeps into Randall’s Island, New York.  Approximately 100 college and high school teams from 27 states as well as Argentina, New Zealand, Canada and Finland will compete over the two-day tournament. Teams representing such schools as Harvard, Yale, Duke, UCLA, Emerson, NYU, Swarthmore, Carleton, Tufts and Middlebury will be there.

For some, Quidditch is a way to relive the magic of J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter books. For others, it is an athletic challenge. The co-ed event combines elements of rugby, dodge ball, tag and hide-and-seek, with a bit of theatre thrown in. It’s a full-contact sport with no heavy padding and not for the faint of heart.

While much of the game remains true to its description in the Harry Potter series, some elements have been adjusted for Muggles (non-magic folk). There  is still a great deal of reverence for the original story, but also creative interpretations of Rowling’s details.

Quidditch was first translated from flying broomsticks to a more grounded version by Middlebury College students in 2005.The real-life interpretation of the high-flying Hogwarts game has since taken off in a big way, with hundreds of colleges and high schools practicing and competing around the world.

For the uninitiated, the Quidditch of Muggles is played very similar to the way it is described in Rowling’s books (without the flying of course).

There are seven players on each team and everyone runs about the oval pitch on a broomstick. Three chasers on each team throw a volleyball — a quaffle — back and forth between themselves as they attempt to score on one of three goal hoops on the other side of the field. A chaser is kind of like a lacrosse midfielder

Each goal is worth 10 points. The hoops are guarded by a “keeper” who acts as a goalie.

The job of the chasers is made more difficult by the fact that the chasers on the other team are trying to tackle them to the ground to steal the ball from them.

Then there are the two “beaters’ on each team throwing “bludgers” or dodge balls at the members of the opposing team. When a player gets hit, they have to dismount their broom.

There’s also a “snitch,” a neutral player dressed in an improvised yellow costume, whose job it is to hide  and get hunted down by the seekers (one per team) If a player successfully grabs the sock the snitch wears tucked into his or her waistband or back pocket, that team wins 30 points.

The snitch does not use a broom and does not belong to either team. But his or her actions often result in the most hilarity.

Capturing the snitch does not guarantee winning the game. But snitches often steal the show. They are allowed to do just about anything  to get away—they can climb a tree, wrestle oher players, ride a bicycle…even leave the field. Eventually, however, they must return and be visible to the teams, especially if no one can find them.

The game definitely has a social conscience and a seemingly progressive stipulation for coed play is clearly set forth in the rulebook:

“Each team must have at least two players that are of a different gender than the other players. The gender that a player identifies with is considered to be that player’s gender.”

Short of a wizard casting a spell on  NCAA officials, however, it’s doubtful Quidditch will  be sanctioned by the college sports authority anytime soon.  But that doesn’t seem to stop students from flocking to the game. And vying for a World Cup.

The Quidditch World Cup 2011

Where: Icahn Stadium, 20 Randall’s Island, New York
When: Tomorrow, 9 a.m. to 10 p.m. and Sunday, 9 a.m. to 9 p.m.
How much: $4.99 to $99.99. Call (917) 740-8216 or visit worldcupquidditch.com.
What else: There will be Quidditch merchandise (yes, brooms), Butterbeer (the wizarding world’s drink of choice), real beer, owl demonstrations, commentary from improv comedians and, on Sunday, the band Harry and the Potters.

 

For more information about playing Quidditch, visit internationalquidditch.org.

@jschonb

dare to dream

Also online at prettytough.com and womentalksports.com

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