The Occidental College Quidditch team began its third season with an intercollegiate tournament November 20 that coincided with the release of the latest Harry Potter film, "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows."
Named after the sport played by characters in the Potter novels by J.K. Rowling, Quidditch began as an intramural sport at Middlebury College in Vermont in 2005. Today, more than 200 colleges are part of the International Quiddich Assn., a nonprofit group that promotes the sport through meets such as the Quidditch World Cup.
The Occidental tournament, which was covered by NBC Channel 4 and Patch.com, lasted nearly six hours and included teams from UCLA, USC, Arizona State University, and Moorpark College. The top two teams, Arizona and UCLA, played each other in the final match, with ASU emerging as the winner. Occidental ranked third.
A Quidditch game begins when the referee calls, "Brooms down. Eyes closed. The Snitch is loose." Players then close their eyes as the Snitch runs and hides. The Quaffle, a partially deflated volleyball, sits in the center of the field, along with three Bludgers (rubber four-square balls). When the referee calls "Brooms up," players on broomsticks rush forward to grab the balls. Players try to score by throwing the Quaffle through goals.
Occidental's team consists of 26 players, including captains Caroline Osborn '12 and Aylia Colwell '11. This year the team was given access to Patterson Field for practices and has doubled its practice time.
"It sounds ridiculous, and it is ridiculous...but it's actually really hard!" Colwell told the student newspaper, the Occidental Weekly, last month.
The brooms used in the game, called Scarlet Falcons, are carefully crafted replicas of those used in the Potter films, and are a challenge to run with. During Saturday's tournament, an ASU player ran into another player, fell down, and snapped his broomstick in half. "The broom handles are so thick that no one anticipated such dramatic damage," Osborn said. "That and various minor scrapes, cuts, and bruises throughout the day show how hard we were playing. Quidditch may be imaginative and whimsical, but it can also be quite brutal."
"Some of the teams played a bit more aggressively than we anticipated, but it seems like everyone had a good time anyway," agreed Colwell, who has already seen the latest Potter film, which was released Friday night at midnight, twice. "There's a really great sense of community among Quidditch players and, for most of us, it's more about the community than the competition."
Next semester Occidental plans to host a West Coast Cup tournament, which would be about twice the scope of Saturday's tourney, lasting two days and including eight to 12 teams. It would be the first tournament uniting all of the West Coast Quidditch teams. "If there's anything to be said for Harry Potter, it's that it brings people from all walks of life together to share in something like this," Colwell said.