By Hoon Chung
RICHMOND, Va. – On a recent Wednesday afternoon, while many students at Virginia Commonwealth University had their nose in a textbook, others were running around with a broomstick between their legs.
Securing a ball on her side with one hand holding a broomstick, a woman ran across the field. She bumped into a crowd of players, balls flying over her head and under her legs. She stopped, hurled her ball through a large hoop and scored!
The students were playing Quidditch, a sport derived from the Harry Potter book series popular with teenagers. In the novels, Quidditch is a semi-contact sport played by wizards and witches. In real life, it’s played by Muggles – author J.K. Rowling’s term for people without magical abilities.
Muggle Quidditch started in 2005 at Middlebury College in Vermont and has since spread to more than 200 campuses across the United States. For the past three years, Middlebury has hosted an intercollegiate Quidditch World Cup.
The World Cup tournament on Oct. 25 drew 21 teams – from Boston and Harvard universities to Texas A&M and even McGill University in Quebec, Canada. For the first time, VCU sent a team – the only delegation from Virginia.
VCU lost to Louisiana State and to Middlebury, which went on to win the World Cup for the second year in a row. (The play-by-play announcer jokingly called VCU’s defeat to Middlebury “the most devastating loss for Virginia since Appomattox Court House.”)
But members of VCU’s Quidditch team said they had fun.
“The World Cup was fantastic!” said Britni Puccio, the team’s captain.
The fun was tinged with pain, though.
“We actually had a really serious injury,” Puccio said. “While we were up against Louisiana State University, one of our members broken her collarbone and had to taken to the hospital. But other than that, we had a great time!”
And that’s what playing Quidditch is all about.
“This is a stress reliever for me,” Tejai Jordan, a VCU psychology major, said during a recent scrimmage on the Monroe Park campus. “This is the place where I come and relax, and I love the teammates.”
Another player, graduate student Amber Cummings, also enjoys the camaraderie: “We all just get along really well.”
VCU’s Quidditch club started in February 2008. The sport has attracted more and more students each year.
Matches are played between two seven-member teams. They often play on a soccer-type field; at each end are three elevated ring-shaped goals. Each player must hold a broomstick (in the Harry Potter books, the players are flying). Several “quaffles” – balls, such as volleyballs – are in play. The goal is to fling a quaffle through one of the goals.
While the VCU students played Quidditch, passers-by stopped to watch. Some think it’s silly for college students to play the fictional sport.
“We are adults now,” said John Han, a VCU junior. “It’s embarrassing to see fellow students running around with broomstick. Let’s let put our childish ways behind and grow up.”
But Quidditch player Amanda Price said the sport is a good match for university students.
“Being yourself is what all colleges is about,” she said.
“Let’s go out and experiment – do the things that we never did before. Have fun, look like an idiot but enjoy it. We will not likely have this kind of chance again.”
For more information, visit the Facebook group "Fans of Quidditch at VCU!".