Fans of J. K. Rowling‘s Harry Potter series have long had to resign themselves to the fact that, no matter how hard they wish for it, no owl will ever be coming to summon them to Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. But that hasn’t stopped some of them from bringing a bit of the magic to life.
Across Canada, the high-flying wizard sport of quidditch has become a (grounded) reality for a generation that grew up with the books. Founded in 2005 in Vermont, “muggle” (a.k.a. non-magic person) quidditch quickly found a home on post-secondary campuses around the world. It landed in Calgary in 2012 when University of Calgary students and Harry Potter Club members began hosting their own quidditch practices, creating a team, the U of C Mudbloods.
Rachel Malone, the Mudbloods’ head coach and president last season, says quidditch is popular with high school athletes who don’t fit into varsity university sports. “They still want to be involved in athletics of some kind, and quidditch offers a really unique, athletic environment,” she says.
Calgary now has two development teams – the U of C Mudbloods and the community-based Kelpies. Development teams, which are usually open to anyone over 18, play a recreational, low-contact form of quidditch. Attending one of the Kelpies’ Sunday practices is one of the best ways to be introduced to the game, says Donna Tran, vice-president of communications for the team. “Most of our practices, we work on the basic skills and how to play.”
Players must learn the positions – beaters, chasers, keepers and seekers – as well as the rules, which go something like this: chasers attempt to score on the opposing team’s hoops with deflated volleyballs (“quaffles”), while beaters take out players with dodgeballs (“bludgers”) and seekers chase the snitch, an unbiased participant with a tennis ball in a sock velcroed to their shorts. If they catch the snitch, the game automatically ends. All of this is done while straddling a broom or, at least, a broom handle.
Those looking to play full-contact, competitive quidditch can seek out the Calgary Mavericks, who compete at the highest level across Canada. And, if quidditch becomes a true calling, there may be the chance to play in the annual International Quidditch Association World Cup for Team Canada, which placed fourth out of 21 teams this past July.