Athletes all across the U.S. are lacing up their sneakers, stretching their legs, and… hopping on their broomsticks? The International Quidditch Association, a real life sports league based off of the the wizard-fantasy, Harry Potter novels’ fictional sport, is holding its seventh annual World Cup in North Myrtle Beach, North Carolina.
Quidditch is a full contact, co-ed sport played by more than 300 teams worldwide. Only 80 of these teams, though, will compete to be named world champions in the World Cup.
The sport was first founded at Middblebury College in October of 2005 by Xander Manshel, a freshman at the time. By November, the college had seven teams competing in an intramural tournament. The game exploded in popularity, with Vassar College establishing its own league the next year. Then, in 2007, the first ever Quidditch World Cup was held between the two colleges.
The game is played much the same way it is in the novels, with some creative retooling to compensate for the lack of magical items. The object is to get the quaffle (a volleyball) through one of the opposing team’s three hoops. Each goal earns 10 points. Three other balls are in play, though–two bludgers (dodgeballs) and the snitch. Players in the position of beaters control the bludgers to “knock out” the other team’s players. If hit by a bludger, a player must race back to their side of the field and touch their goal to get back in to the game.
The game ends when the snitch is caught. In the novels, it’s a tiny, golden ball with wings. In this real world version, it’s a tennis ball in a sock that’s tied to a neutral, 15th player called the snitch runner. Before the game starts, the snitch runner is “released,” and roams an area larger than the field. During a typical college game, this area is usually the entire campus. The game ends when one team’s seeker snatches the snitch, which also earns his or her team 30 points.
Oh, and each player–except for the snitch runner–needs to hold a broomstick between their legs while they run and handle the ball.
Though the snitch runner is the only player with an officially specified uniform, having to wear some kind of gold to signify the position, it’s left up to the teams to design their own shirts or jerseys.
“The best printing process for anything is screen printing,” explains Eric Uzelac, Vice President at The Shirt Printer. “That by far will be the longest-lasting printing process. However, when people want to make something for their own league, the best for that is the one that comes from their soul, and that’s why we allow people to customize their T-shirts and make them their own.”
Though the game is immensely fun for its players, it’s surprisingly aggressive. Amanda Dallas, an NYU Quidditch player, recounts, “I’ve had my shoulder thrown out from an illegal tackle. I’ve had my lips busted open more times than I can count. I had a concussion earlier this year and I spent my first week of senior year with a black eye from a broomstick… It’s certainly not for the faint of heart.”
With less than two weeks away from the seventh world cup, players across the nation are training and practicing diligently, ready to seize glory and leave their names in the annals of the young sport’s history.