Lights ablaze. The stadium is shouting, screaming. Players slowly survey the playing field, before their coaches call them in a final meeting. When pumped up properly, they sprint back out onto the field, lean down, wait for that signal call. Once whistles blown or balls rang, then, bats, balls or brooms are picked up; yes, brooms, too.
J.K. Rowling took the household item and made it sports equipment in her “Harry Potter” series when she created the nail-biting, stand-up-worthy, eye-bugging-out game of Quidditch, and, this weekend, fans and non-fans can see this game from Rowling’s pages played out.
The International Quidditch Association has teamed up with the Augusta Sports Council to host the 2013 IQA Southern Regional Championship this Saturday and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. at Riverview Park in North Augusta.
Thirteen teams from four states will compete for a chance to go on to the World Cup competition in April. Winthrop University, College of Charleston – CofC Quidditch – and the University of South Carolina – Gamecocks Quidditch – will represent South Carolina, according to Celia Garthwait, IQA south regional expansion representative and championships assistant director.
Here’s a Quidditch primer to help you follow the action.
Rowling set the rules in her book; all what those who play “Muggle,” her term for nonmagical folk, or ground Quidditch has to do is follow them.
“We play … ground Quidditch very much like it is played in the books and the movies,” Lindsay Fussell, south regional director and Florida Asgardian Swagrid Timelords team captain, said.
Seven players make up each team: three chasers, one keeper, two beaters and one seeker, according to Fussell.
Rowling’s players are draped in robes and their team colors. Each of IQA’s players are marked with headbands, chasers wearing white, keepers green, beaters black and seekers yellow. Players must wear them at all times, though exceptions are recorded, according to the official handbook.
The wizards and witches of Rowling’s Quidditch fly around on brooms to play the game. Well, “the most interesting part of this sport is that we use brooms. Players must keep the broom between their legs at all time. The skill in the game is being able to function – catch, run and throw – with the broom,” Fussell said.
The players deal with three different balls: a quaffle, a snitch and bludgers.
The chasers and keeper focus on the quaffle, a slightly deflated volleyball in the IQA interpretation. Scoring this ball is worth 10 points.
The chasers have to throw, kick or pass the quaffle through one of three hoops at the end of field. The keeper guards those hoops; however, “sometimes (the keeper) will join the chasers in taking the ball up the field to the other team’s hoops,” Fussell said.
As the keepers protect the hoops, the beaters protect everyone on the team, in a way. What they do is take their bludgers and hit the members from the other team out of play. Of course, this is not as dire as in Rowling’s series; once those players are hit, they are sometimes knocked out of the air. “Knocking off the broom” in the IQA sense means, once players are hit, they must dismount and go back and touch a part of their team’s hoops. They must then remount before returning to play, according to the handbook.
“I equate this to playing video games in the way that, when you die in the game, you are returned to a spawn point or last save,” Fussell said.
A difference does lie with this part of the game. In the books, each beater has a bludger; in the IQA version, there are three bludgers.
“This is because the balls don’t fly on their own trying to unseat players, so we must throw them,” Fussell said. “Since there are two beaters on each team, if team A’s beaters get ahold of the two bludgers, then team B’s would have a serious fight in getting one of them, causing a monopoly of sorts on the bludger control. Having three erases this problem so that a team will always have possession of at least one bludger at all times.”
All eyes ultimately point to the seeker. His or her goal is to catch the snitch to win the game.
In the books, the snitch is a winged, golden, zipping ball that worth 150 points. For the IQA, the snitch is a tennis ball inside a sock that’s worth 30 points, according to the handbook.
When presented in Rowling’s way, the snitch and seeker relationship coincides with the rest of the game – ball versus man.
When presented in IQA’s way, the relationship stands out. There is the seeker, but then there is a snitch runner. The snitch runner, dressed all in yellow or gold, is not a team member but is usually a wrestler, cross country runner, martial artist or all of the above, Fussell said. The seeker chases after the snitch runner and tries to pull the “snitch,” which is hanging from the runner’s shorts.
“The snitch runner has no real regulations in what they cannot do,” Fussell said. “It is very often you will see a snitch runner pull out a couple cans of silly string, a nerf gun, lemons or random other prank items to mess with the seekers. They are really the entertainment aspect of the game.”
While many more rules come into play, one basic thing that must be followed involves gender.
“Quidditch is a full-contact, fully co-ed sport, so there must be a minimum of two players of a different gender than the rest of the pitch at all times,” Garthwait said.
It is free to come out this weekend and see the South Carolina teams, Florida State University, Brevard Community College, University of Florida, Florida Atlantic University, Florida International University, Ringling College of Art and Design, University of Miami, University of South Florida, Tennessee Technological University and University of South Mississippi compete.
Opening ceremonies last until 9:45 a.m. on Saturday. Games will be played on three fields to determine who will be in the Top 8. The Top 8 begin play at 1 p.m. on Sunday. Six teams will qualify for the sixth annual World Cup, according to the Cup’s website. Closing ceremonies for this event will be at 4 p.m., on Sunday.
On Saturday starting at noon, a special side event will be held, “kidditch,” where children will be able to learn from the players how the game is done, Brinsley Thigpen, CEO of Augusta Sports Council, said. All through the days, volunteers will be at the headquarters tent if any questions pop up about the sport, Garthwait said.
“Quidditch players are known for their friendliness and being willing to help, so don’t be afraid to ask them questions as well, as long as they’re not in the middle of a game playing or refereeing,” she said.
The story behind the story
The Sports Council and IQA first were introduced at a conference, Thigpen said. The Sports Council saw the IQA as a way to influx local economy and perhaps encourage even the most nonathletic viewers to get involved with the sport or another activity, Thigpen said. “Some of us have read the books and seen the movies, but we did a lot of research (and) knew the community was a good fit,” she said. “We hope residents come out and watch and possible start their own leagues.”
IQA saw the Sports Council as enthusiastic and well-qualified, Garth
“After visiting (the park) myself in early December, I can admit that I am very excited,” Fussell said. “It is a huge location for us and will be a great venue to host our tournament.”
“Muggle” Quidditch all started with Xander Manshel, Alex Benepe and a group of students playing around the lawns of Middlebury College in 2005, according to the school’s website, and it has spread to be one of the fastest growing games.
“I don’t think they knew that day that they would have started something so amazing,” Fussell said.
Garthwait, a player herself, said, “I’ve fallen ‘head over snitch tail’ for it … as a player or spectator, it may seem somewhat confusing and ridiculous at first, but soon you begin to understand how everything fits together. Quidditch is unique in its inclusiveness; especially as a coed sport, it attracts everyone regardless of gender, from the elite athlete to couch potato, from the toddler to the twenty-something college student to the grandparent.”