Athletics and broomsticks: Quidditch is alive and well at University of Oregon

At the UO, quidditch consists of a core group of anywhere between 6-12 people, which is fewer numbers than they would like. This forces them to get creative when they play. (Illustration by Matt Schumacher/Emerald)

Six University of Oregon students virtually flew around on broomsticks above the Knight Library south lawn on a cloudy and rainy Saturday afternoon. The students, representing Gryffindor, Ravenclaw and Hufflepuff, minus the lone Slytherin who was absent due to looming finals and the poor weather, were all playing quidditch.

Quidditch isn’t just a sport for the wizarding world anymore. Muggles, a term to describe people without any magic ability, have created a set of rules to adapt the fictional sport from the Harry Potter universe.

Here at the UO, the quidditch team is co-run by Nick Maurer and Keaton Kell, two friends who began playing four years ago when they both lived in the dorms. Though neither one is a big Harry Potter fan, their mutual friends convinced them to get the team going.

“Nick and I were like ‘hey, sports, that sounds fun,’” Kell said. “I like the rough aspect of the sport, the tackling, the wrapping and pulling — it’s all a lot of fun.”

Muggle quidditch is played between two teams of seven, with everyone using one hand to throw and the other to hold a broomstick between their legs. Chasers or keepers must get the quaffle (a volleyball) through one of the opposing team’s three goals to score. At the same time, beaters use bludgers (dodgeballs) to take out members of the opposition. The match goes until one team’s seeker is able to snag the golden snitch (a tennis ball attached to an impartial official).

What it all boils down to is a kinetic sport that is equal parts strategy and chaos — think a combination of dodgeball, handball and water polo.

At the UO, quidditch consists of a core group of anywhere between 6-12 people, which is fewer numbers than they would like. This forces them to get creative when they play.

“The problem is people come out the once, but they don’t come back a second or third time,” Maurer said. “Once the novelty goes away, it’s just like every other sport.”

Ari Wolfe is one new member who stuck around beyond the novelty period. This was a decision made both in an effort to support her boyfriend, Maurer, and as a way to enjoy the outdoors.

“I was looking for a way to get out and be more active,” Wolfe said. “It’s an excuse to procrastinate on homework and have fun while I’m getting exercise.”

Plenty of curious onlookers are undeniably drawn to the sight of students running around while straddling red, wooden broomsticks. As a sport, quidditch is inclusive, with the rules stating there must be an equal number of males and females on the pitch in order for a team to participate.

“We are all here for the community,” Kell said. “Everyone recognizes that it’s a good group and we have fun together.”

Both Maurer and Kell have put a lot of time into running the quidditch team. They would love to see the group become a recognized program with the ASUO, which would help with recruitment and provide a new source of funding. It would also help in their ultimate goal of creating a lasting program when they move on from the university.

For now, the two enjoy the company of their friends while they play a sport made popular from the Harry Potter series.

The Oregon Quidditch team plays every Saturday at noon behind the Knight Library. They can be contacted through their Facebook page — UO Quidditch Club.

Follow Christopher Keizur on Twitter @chriskeizur

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