ASU Quidditch is not just for Harry Potter nerds

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While most students are gathered outside Sun Devil Stadium for the ASU and UCLA game, the ASU Quidditch team is practicing on the south side of Gammage Auditorium just as if they were at Hogwarts.

An ASU Police officer rolls by, not to break them up, but to see for himself that Muggle Quidditch is a real thing.

“Yup, we are always here,” ASU Quidditch Vice President Daniel Martin said.

Biology senior Julea Shaw said she joined the ASU Quidditch team for her love of the Harry Potter series. She thought it would be just a bunch of nerdy people running around on broomsticks but learned it was more than that.

“I joined because I like Harry Potter; I stayed for the sport,” she said.

The team practices every Tuesday and Thursday at 8 p.m. on the south side of Gammage Auditorium. Shaw said people will often drive by during practices shouting and playing Harry Potter music, but the team has gotten used to it.

In the fictional world of Harry Potter, Quidditch is described as, “A wizarding sport played on broomsticks. It is the most popular game among wizards and witches, and, according to Rubeus Hagrid, the equivalent to Muggles’ passion for (soccer).”

Harry Potter fans at Middlebury College in Vermont established Muggle Quidditch in 2005. It has since grown to an international scale. The International Quidditch Association regulates rules of the sport, and the U.S. has its own U.S. Quidditch league that sanctions its own events.

The ASU Quidditch team first began in fall 2009 under the leadership of ASU alumna Alexis Bristor.

“Five years ago, they barely had enough (players) to play,” Shaw said. ”There are now 21 on the roster and 45 on the team. Attendance is important, but a lot of people are naturally dedicated.”

ASU Quidditch has competed against NAU and many other teams within the regions, including Stanford.

“Last year in the World Cup, we played against Harvard and Tennessee Tech,” Shaw said. “We were ranked second in our region last year.”

Shaw said she really likes having the chance to get to know players from other teams across the nation and abroad.

“During the World Cup, you really get to know other team members from around the world,” she said. “I got to meet the Canadian team. It’s really cool to get to see the Quidditch community off the pitch.

Shaw said Muggle Quidditch shares some similarities with how it is played in the books with some obvious differences.

“We still run with brooms between our legs,” she said. “The Snitch is another player with a tennis ball velcroed to his waist. Getting the snitch is only worth 30 points, but it still ends the game. The bludger is a dodge ball and the quaffel is a deflated volleyball.”

USQ prevents biased snitches to ensure they remain uncaught for as long as possible. They even have to go through crash course training to qualify for the position.

Shaw said when people first join the team, they try to let them try all the positions to see which fits them best.

“Some people are better at certain things,” she said. “Seekers tend to be fast and people who have previously played football are better at the chaser position. Beaters are more strategic and have an understanding of what’s going on the field.”

Communications sophomore Tori Kaiser said she has played sports her entire life and that Quidditch can be very challenging.

Kaiser used to play seeker but, after a semester, realized she was better fitted for chaser.

“It requires athleticism, and you have to be strong enough to tackle,” she said. “It’s a tackle, contact sport, and it’s also coed, so there are girls tackling guys and guys tackling girls.”

Business freshman Ryan McGonagle, who is a beater, said a lot of people laugh at the serendipity of his name.

“They don’t believe me at first,” he said. “I’m just excited to see the name on a jersey.”

McGonagle said he already had an interest in Quidditch but was surprised at how aggressive the sport was when he first started. He enjoys playing the beater position as it works best for him.

Creative writing senior Blake Thurston joined the team in spring 2013. He said he is a huge Harry Potter fanatic and has read all the books and seen all the movies, except Order of the Phoenix.

Thurston said he has always been big on running and tried being seeker and has since stuck with it. He works his schedule around Quidditch practice not because he has to, but because he wants to.

“You really get into the motion of it,” he said. “It’s a good release and exercise.”

Thurston said because Quidditch attracts a specific crowd, he really gets along with the people on the team.

“You meet people you wouldn’t meet anywhere else,” he said. “It’s a unique group of people, and I really like what it’s becoming.”

 

Reach the assistant news editor at kgrega@asu.edu or follow her on Twitter @kelciegrega

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