RIT ‘muggles’ battle on the quidditch field

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Jonathan Sanger

RIT’s Quidditch Club traveled to New York City Nov. 12-13 and captured second place in its division at the Quidditch World Cup. ‘Muggle’ quidditch—a mix of rugby, dodgeball, basketball and tag—is played with a broom between players’ legs.

Before Harry Potter’s first quidditch match, he asked for insight on what it’s like to play the game.

“I, uh, I don’t really remember,” recalls Team Gryffindor captain Oliver Wood. “I took a bludger to the head two minutes in. Woke up in the hospital a week later.”

Luckily for those of us who can’t fly a Nimbus 2001 broom or cast a Brackium Emendo magical spell—used to mend bones—muggle quidditch is a game played at ground level. But don’t assume the game is for the weak and non-athletic.

“Quidditch is aggressive and most people are surprised that the co-ed, full-contact sport involves tackling and serious teamwork,” says RIT Quidditch Club president John Glynn, a fourth-year applied mathematics major. “It is funny when I have to explain to my friends that my black eye is from quidditch.”

If you have noticed a group of students running by the Gordon Field House—broomsticks between legs, ball in hand—then you most likely have seen the RIT Quidditch Club. The Dark Marks, the competitive arm of the club, even represents RIT in matches against other colleges in the International Quidditch Association.

The club, which was formed in 2009 and became recognized as an official RIT club a year later, consistently has 40 muggles, or people lacking any sort of magical ability, playing at its Sunday pick-up games. In addition to practices and scrimmages on campus, the club has played four league games this year against several schools, including University of Rochester and Syracuse University.

“Quidditch is like playing rugby, basketball, dodgeball and tag all at the same time, with a broom between your legs that you can joust with,” says Jeff Sherman, second-year game design and development major and the team’s captain. Muggle quidditch began at Middlebury College in 2005 and has since spread like wildfire to campuses across the country, with hundreds of active teams in more than 13 countries.

For those familiar with the wizard’s game from the Harry Potter series, it is easy to understand how parts of the game have been adapted for muggles. Chasers work together to move the quaffle ball down field to score on the opposing team’s keeper, who protects three hoops. The beaters’ job is to use a bludger ball to knock opposing players temporarily out of play. Knocked-out players must return to their goals before being able to return to the game.

But how does the snitch work?

“That is the question everyone asks us,” says Allison Rabent, third-year art conservation major and vice president of the club. “It is also one of the best parts.”

In the films, the golden snitch is a tiny ball with wings that flies around the field at lightning speed throughout the game. If a player catches the snitch, the game is over and that team wins. In muggle quidditch, the snitch is a ball attached to a person whose job is to make sure—by any means necessary—that a seeker does not catch the ball. The gold-clad crowd-pleaser can use anything from cars to buildings to evade the seekers.

“Some snitches are fast, while others will use brute force to keep seekers away,” says Glynn.

The Dark Marks competed against 100 other teams in the fifth Quidditch World Cup Nov. 12–13 in Randall’s Island, New York City. RIT placed second in the Division II tournament, losing to Purdue University in the championship match at Icahn Stadium.

“Last spring none of us thought that we would be standing on that field, under the lights, in front of such a huge crowd just six months later,” says Rabent. “We played some of the best quidditch I have ever seen.”

The team hopes to move up to Division I next year, playing against top-ranked schools including Middlebury College and Tufts University.

Will someone from RIT’s quidditch team hoist the Quidditch Cup before an RIT hockey player hoists the Stanley Cup? Only time will tell. Unless you have a Time-Turner, of course.