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Penn State, Meet Your Quidditch Team

“Quidditch players move with the grace and ferocity of top athletes; the best of them look like lacrosse players and hit like linebackers.” – Nate Jones, Time Magazine

Penn State, meet your 25th-ranked International Quidditch Association (IQA) team, which will be competing in the Quidditch World Cup this coming weekend. No, they may not have flying broomsticks or enchanted Bludgers, but the Muggles of the Penn State Quidditch club play a similar and equally impressive version of the “Harry Potter” wizarding sport.

What is Quidditch?

Quidditch is a relatively new, co-ed sport governed by an international body, the International Quidditch Association (IQA). In IQA Quidditch (which boasts a 37-page rulebook!!), each team fields seven players:

  • Three Chasers, who score the Quaffle — a deflated volleyball — through one of the opposing team’s three goalposts for 10 points apiece. On defense, they take on opposing Chasers by “lowering [their shoulders] and hitting them, essentially,” according to club president Eliott Bryson.
  • Two Beaters, who peg opposing players with Bludgers — dodgeballs — forcing them to run back to their own goalposts before re-entering play. They can also wrestle opposing beaters for possession of the Bludgers — a team that holds two of the three Bludgers is said to be in “Bludger control”.
  • One Keeper, who guards the team’s goalposts while on defense, and can act as an oversized fourth Chaser (and dunk specialist) while on offense.
  • One Seeker, who vies against the opposing Seeker to “capture” the Snitch — a gold-clad human that runs around with a tennis ball attached to his or her waist. Capturing the Snitch is worth 30 points and ends the match immediately.

Before the IQA established a “Seeker floor” — a set period of time at the beginning of the match when the Seeker cannot pursue the Snitch — matches lasted anywhere from 30 seconds to 45 minutes, with game scores varying anywhere from 30 points to the high 100s and 200s. (The 30-second game was a fluke, according to Bryson — the Snitch, which must hide off of the pitch at the beginning of the match, got stuck on a fence while trying to hop it.)

In short, Quidditch manages to combine “rugby, handball, dodgeball, and long-distance running,” which is exactly as intense and violent as it sounds. In fact, in my 20-or-so minutes at Penn State Quidditch’s scrimmage, play was stopped once for a head-to-head collision and again for a leg injury. Granted, according to Seeker David Blyton, such injuries are not all that common in Quidditch.

Penn State Seeker David Blyton shakes off a hit to the head.

Outside of a few differences here and there, the sport is essentially the no-flying, marginally less dangerous version of the Quidditch of “Harry Potter.” Pretty damn cool — but how did Penn State get a Quidditch team in the first place, anyway?

A Brief History of Quidditch at Penn State

In fall of 2010, Quidditch arrived in State College, Pennsylvania when a group of then-freshmen introduced the sport to the Penn State Three Broomsticks Club, otherwise known as the Harry Potter Club. Over time, though, the more serious Quidditch players started drifting apart from those who were just playing for fun, and they eventually split off to create Penn State Quidditch, which became a certified club sport in fall of 2011.

Today, Penn State Quidditch is a highly successful Penn State club team, having qualified for the Quidditch World Cup in every year since 2010. Though Quidditch is as demanding as any other club sport, its 60 or so members still manage to have fun with it. They are students with personalities ranging from the goofy jokesters to the hyper-competitive athletes, who socialize like any other team would — whether it’d be by lifting together, grabbing dinner after practice, catching a movie at the HUB, or ice-skating on the weekends.

And, unlike boring more mainstream club sports such as basketball and baseball, you don’t necessarily need any experience to give Quidditch a try.

“Quidditch is the only sport I know where people of wide range of athletic backgrounds come together,” says Seeker David Blyton. “A physical 200-pound keeper can play on the same team as a skinny cross country runner. And unlike soccer or baseball, nobody has been playing Quidditch since they were five-years-old.

“We all come in on pretty much the same playing field,” Blyton explains. “All you need to do well is some measure of fitness and the willingness to work hard.”

We Talkin’ ‘Bout Practice

Weather and field conditions permitting, the club holds two-hour practices three times a week at Stadium Field West; in the winter wasteland months of State College, the team practices indoors twice a week at the White Building.

A typical practice consists of an hour or so of shooting and passing drills as well defensive drills. After drills, members of the Quidditch Club pick up their broomsticks and run 7-on-7 scrimmages. Practices are open to all 60 or so members of the Quidditch Club, as well as to prospective members that want to give Quidditch a try.

Penn State Quidditch
Penn State Quidditch practices at Stadium Field West.

Since the Quidditch World Cup is fast approaching, however, the Quidditch Club has been running more scrimmages and game situations for the 23 members of Penn State’s World Cup team. In addition, the World Cup team has been setting up in Willard for film study on their tournament opponents. No joke — for instance, from game film, the team will tell you that University of Florida is a big and physical team while Rochester Institute of Technology doesn’t like to tackle and instead relies on “Bludger control” for defense.

“When I watch film, I look for various things,” says Michael “Yada” Parada, a former Team USA Chaser who leads the team’s film sessions. “Is their point defender a Chaser or a Beater? Does the Keeper play off the hoops to act as a fourth Chaser or does he sit and wait for shots?”

“Are their defenders good tacklers?” Parada continues. “Do they use their Bludgers defensively or do they bring them up with the offense to create more spaces for their chasers? How many close games has their Seeker won?”

So yeah, it’s safe to say Penn State Quidditch doesn’t screw around when it comes to practice.

The 6th Annual Quidditch World Cup

 Penn State Quidditch

On Friday, Penn State Quidditch will be sending a 23-member squad to the 6th Annual Quidditch World Cup. The World Cup will bring 80 teams — from various universities and communities around the world — to Kissimmee, Florida, for two days of matches and other festivities. There’s no Big Ten of Quidditch, unfortunately, but traditional Penn State rivals such as Ohio State, Michigan State, and Michigan will also be vying for the World Cup in Kissimmee this weekend.

#25 Penn State, which qualified as a Division-I team in the United States Mid-Atlantic Region, will take on #37 Rochester Institute of Technology in the first game of the “group stage.” Other teams in Penn State’s “group” include #43 University of Florida, #83 Loyola (Chicago), and a community team, #12 Silicon Valley Screwts. They’re a tough group of teams, no doubt, but Penn State has placed well in previous World Cups and will look to record another strong performance this year at Kissimmee.

You can root for Penn State Quidditch this weekend on the World Cup’s livestream. We wish Penn State Quidditch the best of luck in the Quidditch World Cup — hope you guys bludger the competition.

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About the Author

Bobby Chen

Writer and photographer, helping tell the many stories of the Penn State community.

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