University of Portsmouth student and President of the University Quidditch Club Jaelithe Swan introduces an unusual international sport – based on the game made famous by the Harry Potter novels and films – and calls on local residents to get involved.
I’ve spent a disproportionate amount of my University life on a quidditch pitch.
Although originally penned by JK Rowling in her legendary Harry Potter novels, quidditch progressed to a real world sport in 2005 in America. The game is fast-paced, mixed gender, full contact, and played across the world.
Despite the game’s fame in Rowling’s world, the real life version is yet to gain a similar following.
Quidditch in the UK is mostly played in University clubs – I first spotted the University of Portsmouth club at Freshers’ Fayre in 2014. The group has changed a lot since its beginning, and as of this month, is now accepting community players.
Both student and community players will have the opportunity to contribute to the city’s registered team the Portsmouth Horntail Strikers, who placed 19th at the British Quidditch Cup this year after finishing 3rd in the Consolation Bracket.
The sprint-based game allows for continuous substitutions, which means you can really give the game your all and swap out when necessary. The quidditch season usually runs in line with University terms, beginning in September. Strikers’ first tournament this year will be Southern Cup, hosted in Southampton in November – and I can’t wait.
With up to 5 active balls on pitch, the game looks baffling to newcomers. Players must hold a ‘broom’ – or PVC stick – between their legs at all times, and can expect to be beat by opponent beaters throwing bludgers (dodgeballs) at any time. If hit, players must dismount their broom and run back to their hoops before tapping back in to play.
With 4 different on-pitch roles – keeping, chasing, beating and seeking – individual tactics and style vary drastically. Those expecting a gentle, sentimental game of the wizarding world will be surprised by the high contact levels throughout play.
3 hoops of varying heights stand at either end of the pitch – with 4 of the potential 7 players on pitch attempting to put the quaffle through the opposing team’s goals for 10 points.
Perhaps the most interesting role of all, the seekers are released 18 minutes into the game and must catch the snitch to end the match. A successful snitch catch is worth 30 points and can be the difference between winning and losing.
Unlike in the original books, the snitch doesn’t fly – the ball is attached to the back of the shorts of the Snitch Runner, an impartial player dressed in yellow who doesn’t want to be caught.
One of my favourite things about the game is the variety of roles you can play – having played exclusively chasing roles in the past, I look forward to the chance to try my hand at beating this year. Even the most experienced players start from scratch when changing player position, so new team members aren’t left behind. Positions require varying levels of fitness and tactics; there is always a place for even the newest players on pitch.
Quidditch is exclusively mixed gender, allowing a maximum of 4 people who identify as the same gender on pitch at once. If you’re not male, there’s no fear of being side-lined because of your gender, and this rule has been of great benefit to me. I haven’t been left behind by the males on the team who are often larger, stronger and faster than me.
With one more year of University, I’m excited to see what changes expanding into the community will bring to the team – and I’m not the only one.
“I’ve made so many great friends through the sport,” says University of Portsmouth graduate Ellie Marvin. “I love training because I can be competitive or just have fun while keeping fit, and I like that now we’ll be able to broaden our team to a wider mix of people.”
Training sessions will be taught by Portsmouth’s Quidditch Coach and Captain, Jack Latoy, who graduated from the University of Portsmouth last year in Sport and Exercise Science.
“Quidditch is made unique through its gender rules and inclusivity,” explains Jack. “But what makes it great to play is the pace and style of gameplay. Quidditch does not require a ridiculous level of fitness. It is playable with high or low levels of contact. The variety of positions playing makes the game unpredictable and highly tactical, and there is a role for everyone.”
Strikers Quidditch sessions will be held on Sundays, 2-5pm at Milton Park – with a beginner session on 1st October. All equipment is provided and attendees are advised to wear clothing suitable for outdoor sport. Clothes are liable to get muddy, so those wishing to attend should bring jumpers/warm clothing for after the session.
Help us spread the word and if you’re curious, get along to the beginner session or find out more at our website.
Images by Jaelithe Swan.