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Carter Paine

Beaters, Keeps, Chasers, & Seekers

Few people will know what the title of this paper refers to unless they are part of the mysterious world of Quidditch lovers.  What is Quidditch you might ask?  Allow me to shed some light on the subject… According to author J.K. Rowlings, “Quidditch started in the 11 th century, at a place called Queerditch Marsh[1] which you probably won't find marked on maps. But obviously that's because wizards have made the place unplottable (which means you can't plot it on a map).  Originally it was quite a crude game played on broomsticks, and over the subsequent two centuries they added more balls until it became the game we know now.”  ('Raincoast Books interview transcript, Raincoast Books (Canada), March 2001.)  'This magical game so captured the hearts and minds of millions of Harry Potter fans, that it has became a very real sport, quite literally around the world.   In fact, at least 10,000 fans turned out for the last Quidditch world cup in Rock Hill, South Carolina in April of 2015.  However, as awesome as it is for the players in a Quidditch match to be flying a hundred feet above the ground on magic broomsticks, players today have yet to discover how to use  the magic spell “Wingardium Leviosa”[2] – used in the Harry Potter series written by J.K. Rowling. Instead, a player today’s broomstick is a white PVC pipe, held tightly between their legs with their free hand, while they clutch a deflated volleyball in the other.  Instead of flying, they sprint across the grassy pitch wearing cleats and jerseys instead of robes[3], playing the modern-day version of Quidditch.

The origins of Quidditch, according to J.K. Rowling, come from other “real” games over the course of history.  These include “Stichstock” which is of German origin and involves catching a dragon bladder, “Ainginein” which is of Irish origin and involves burning barrels, “Creaothceann” from Scotland, where players use cauldrons strapped to their backs to catch cannonballs, and “Swivenhodge” which is like tennis with a pig’s bladder.  Put those together and what do you have?  Quidditch!

If the game of Quidditch, at first glance, looks chaotic and unlike any other sport that is played in the United States—that’s because it is.

A game of Quidditch is played to a score limit, where each goal scored by throwing a quaffle through a set of rings[4] is worth 10 points, and the golden snitch is worth 30 points.  The “Golden Snitch” actually represents a magical object.  It is a golden ball the size of a large walnut with silver wings.  The “Seeker” has to catch the snitch during a traditional Quidditch match in order to gain victory…easier said than done.

Unlike present day Quidditch matches, in the world of warlocks and witches, matches of Quidditch may go on for days at a time, until the snitch is caught or an agreement is made between the captains of the teams to halt the play

A game of Quidditch is played with six players on each team: one keeper, two beaters, three chasers, and one seeker. The different positions are not to touch any part of another position’s properties, otherwise a foul will ensue.   During a recreational match of Quidditch, if a Seeker[5] picks up a different player’s ball or touches another player’s equipment, the Seeker would earn a penalty.

There are very specific positions on each team; only one player on each team takes on the position of Seeker, and chases after the golden snitch as it darts haphazardly around the Quidditch field at high speeds.   

Given that obtaining a true golden snitch would be impossible for the average college student participating in a Quidditch club, one neutral player is dressed entirely in yellow, while carrying a tennis ball in a golden sock hanging out of the back of his or her shorts; thus, representing the golden snitch.  Their sole task is to escape the seekers’ grasps by nearly any means possible, while being chased by the seekers of both teams.             Seekers are well known in the Harry Potter series for bringing their team a victory by catching the golden snitch, which is one of the more difficult jobs in the game.  In the collegiate matches, the snitch’s boundary ranges up to half of a mile from the field itself – which makes the position of Seeker incredibly tiring.  However, the snitch – unlike in the imaginary world of Harry Potter – is only worth 30 points, instead of 150 points; which means that catching the snitch can stop the game, but it isn’t necessarily a game-winner.  

Each team in the collegiate match has one Keeper that wears his or her black headband as he or she tries to prevent the opposing team from throwing a Quaffle through their hoop. In the fictional game, the keeper would have many different articles of protection, such as a helmet, a chest protector, and knee pads, all helping the keeper stay safe while blocking points for his or her team. The keeper is essentially a chaser[6] that stays back around his or her defensive end protecting their hoop.

The Chasers on the Quidditch pitch are the scoring machines of the team. The Chasers take the Quaffle[7] in their hands, passing it between them as they make their way to their opponent’s scoring hoops, attempting to throw the Quaffle through the large rings. Chasers, second to the seekers, are known for having great agility and speed while riding their broomsticks, in order to score and speed past the other team’s Beaters[8] who serve as defenders for the keeper. There are two Beaters for each team; each beater carries a small wooden bat with them – the bats are put under a spell to make them nearly indestructible – which they use to bat a small iron ball that is bewitched – the Bludger – whose goal is to collide with all players on the pitch, and knock them off of their broomsticks throughout the gameplay. The bludger is about ten inches in diameter, and made of solid iron – in reality it would be very heavy.

In the collegiate version of Quidditch, the beaters carry deflated dodge balls that they use as bludgers, to throw at the opposing team’s chasers as the chasers try to score.  For example, if a chaser was hit by a beater with a bludger, the chaser would have to drop the Quaffle if he or she was holding one, and take the lap of shame back around their defensive end hoops as a way to replicate falling off of their broomsticks.

After making a trip to the University of Minnesota campus to observe a couple of matches of club Quidditch, Hallie Schley a member of the U of M competition Quidditch team[9], gave some of her time for an interview.   It was easy to gain an entirely new perspective regarding the sport of Quidditch once Ms. Schley began to describe the game itself to me.  Going in as fan of the Harry Potter series is nothing compared to the excitement these real-life Quidditch players have for the sport.  Filmmaker Farzad Sangari, who raised almost $27,000 to make a documentary about Quidditch said, “If anybody actually watched or played it, they would realize the amount of athleticism and mental dexterity it takes to play this sport.”  Along with that comes a great deal of passion!

First and foremost, Ms. Schley described Quidditch as a “Contact Sport,” following her description with an explanation about the rules of contact.   Ms. Schley stated that, “the rules of contact are simple, the players are allowed to make tackles on each other, but only from the waist up and shoulder down – leaving the mid section of the torso vulnerable to a tackle.”   She pointed out that, with the lack of protective elements and gear, there are many injuries, both serious and minor, that occur during the playing of this sport.

Ms. Schley stated that she has, personally, witnessed fairly major injuries such as blown out knees from low tackles, and shoulder injuries from high tackles as well.  Although the game of Quidditch can be a dangerous game, the players are known by many other groups and organizations to be very accepting and forgiving toward fellow Quidditch players, meaning that the players are very rarely out for blood.   While watching several games of Quidditch and interviewing other players between games as well, it was evident that not every player grew up on the Harry Potter series, but that they also like Quidditch for its imagination, creativity, and divergence from more well-known games such as baseball or football. 

Language is one of the important elements of culture that can differentiate a group of people.  The subculture of Quidditch is no exception, and clearly has its own language which makes little-to-no sense to non-Quidditch players, thus setting it apart from the other sports.   Adding to the ability to unify a subculture is the extent to which their choice of language is unique or not discernible by non-members.  Those who love and who play Quidditch know just what a bludger, beater, seeker, quaffle, and snitch are.  They take pleasure in having this extra-ordinary lexicon.

When asked why people were so passionate about Quidditch, Ms. Shley spoke about the ability to take the imaginary world of Harry Potter and bring it to life in the real world.  The ability to play a game with a magical feeling to it, even though no one was really flying, and no golden balls actually few with wings around the field, allows people to imagine and pretend.  She argued that this differentiated Quidditch from sports like track where you simply run for a good time, or even basketball – with hoops as well – but without any imagination.

Another distinguishing feature of a sub-culture can be the ability to recognize members by their outward appearance.  This is true for Quidditch players as the only sport where the highest level of organized teams do actually use a broom between their legs, they have one individual dressed in gold with a tennis ball hanging out, and where, as was the case during the 2 matches I personally attended, the fans are often dressed in bright red Harry Potter robes or other “Hogwarts” garb.   While it is not as easy to spot a Quidditch club member when they are off the field (grassy pitch) as it is to notice a “Hipster”[10] by the way he or she dresses, the passion is no less obvious.

Many times we can associate a culture with a certain geography in the world.  Perhaps by language, clothing, or even the type of work that a group does (e.g., fishing versus farming).  One interesting aspect of Quidditch is that it is not geographically-specific.  In fact, it can be found around the world in one form or another.    J.K. Rowlings spoke, in her Raincoast Books interview, about the global nature of Quidditch.  She said, “It's popular nearly everywhere, but not so much in the Far East as they prefer the flying carpet to the broomstick, so it's a real minority sport over there. But in most other places it's fairly popular.”  As far as national teams, she noted that, “At the moment, Bulgaria are pretty good. Ireland are very good and Peru, surprisingly, are also very good.”  This provides a perspective on just how widespread this game is, given that before the first Harry Potter book was published, no one had ever heard of it.

Quidditch is gaining huge visibility as a sport and not only has it become a team sport at such international schools as Harvard University and Emerson College, but CNN International (November 21, 2014) published an article titled “Quidditch is Real and it Wants to Go Pro” by Ollie Williams. 

Mr. Williams writes that, in the nine years since the first official game, Quidditch now has not only a formal governing body, “US Quidditch” with full-time staff, but also 170 college club teams, many of whom actually receiving funding.  Most have actual tryouts and mandatory practices.   The exciting part is that graduates of these teams are taking Quidditch with them all around the world.

In her interview with Raincoast Books (2001), J.K. Rowling shared that she never expected Quidditch to become the phenomenon that it has.  In fact, she ended up writing a guide book of sorts, just about Quidditch, so that Harry Potter could take it out of the Hogwarts library.  But that book has become quite a phenomenon with “muggles” or the rest of us normal humans as well!

After spending merely three hours with the Quidditch folk, I was already determined to suit up in my colored shirt, cleats, and headband, to jump into the next match that was being played. The enthusiasm from each team brings an energy to the sport that simply isn’t seen anywhere else. I feel that the Quidditch culture along with the sport itself are on the up-swing to an entire new reality of sport; the US Quidditch website mentioned that they are “seeking” a spot as a professional sport, and with as much support as they have already, I am sure that the chances of them accomplishing such a feat is inevitable.  As a fellow Harry Potter geek myself, I applaud the Quidditch culture for bringing what J.K. Rowling had created simply out of her own imagination, to life with such emphasis and pride in what they do.

Works Cited

"From Hogwarts to Harvard." Harvard Gazette. N.p., n.d. Web. 18 May 2015.                           <http://news.harvard.edu/gazette/story/2014/10/from-hogwarts-to-harvard/>.

"Is Quidditch a Sport? An Investigation | VICE Sports." VICE Sports RSS. N.p., n.d. Web. 18    May 2015. <https://sports.vice.com/en_us/article/is-quidditch-a-sport-an-investigation>.

"Quidditch." Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, n.d. Web. 18 May 2015. <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Quidditch>.

"Rock Hill Hosts Quidditch World Cup at Manchester Meadows." Heraldonline. N.p., n.d.       Web. 18 May 2015.             http://www.heraldonline.com/news/local/article18363170.html

"USQ." US Quidditch. N.p., n.d. Web. 18 May 2015. <https://www.usquidditch.org/>.

Williams, Ollie. "Quidditch Is Real, and It Wants to Go Pro." CNN. Cable News Network, 21    Nov. 2014. Web. 18 May 2015.                   <http://edition.cnn.com/2014/11/21/sport/quidditch-mudbloods/>.

"2001: Accio Quote!, the Largest Archive of J.K. Rowling Interviews on the Web." 2001:                    Accio Quote!, the Largest Archive of J.K. Rowling Interviews on the Web. N.p., n.d.     Web. 18 May 2015. <http://www.accio-quote.org/articles/2001/0301-raincoast-interview.html>.


[1] A fantasy location in Britain, where the sport “Kwidditch”—a primitive form of Quidditch—evolved into the athletic activity that it is today.

[2] A spell cast from a wizard or witch’s wand, used in the Harry potter series that is used to levitate a desired object.

[3] Quidditch Players in the Harry Potter series wore long velvety hooded robes, colored based on the Housing or school that they attended or were lodged.

[4] The rings in Fantasy Quidditch stand tall from the ground, and span about six feet in diameter. In muggle Quidditch, the rings stand at different heights not too high from the ground, with about a three foot diameter.

[5] The player on each team who’s objective is to catch the golden snitch. This position is usually reserved for the quickest and most agile of broom riders, and in reality the most conditioned athlete, for the most running is dished out to the seekers. It is essentially a cross country runner’s position.

[6] A Quidditch position that involves scoring points, and roaming about the field.

[7] A football-sized leather covered ball with indents acting as handles that the Chasers use to throw into the rings of the opposing team. Scoring 10 points with each goal.

[8] The Beaters are players that carry bats on the pitch with them in the fictional game, but not in reality. The beaters’ job is to protect their teammates from the bludgers, and redirect the bludgers back toward the opposing team.

[9] A team that differentiates itself from the casual Quidditch Club, by traveling across the country to play other schools in highly competitive matches.

[10] A hipster is someone who dresses contrary to common trends to make a fashion statement. Usually stating that they “Wore this before it was cool”. Stereotypically wearing thick spectacles of some sort, the hipster will usually choose to make the “Nerdy” style the “cool” style.

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