Penn State Quidditch Team Brings Competition, Inclusivity To Co-Ed Campus Sports

Intramural and club sports are an integral part of student life at Penn State, but few offer the close-knit team environment and unique skill combinations of the university’s quidditch team.

What is quidditch, exactly? The concept is originally derived from a flying-on-broomsticks sport described in J.K. Rowling’s “Harry Potter” series. Fans of the franchise know the magical sport well, but its real-life manifestation is a bit different from Hogwarts’ favorite pastime. For starters, there’s no flying or broomsticks. Instead, players carry PVC pipes that they call broomsticks.

Six players take the field at all times: three chasers (offensive players), two beaters (defensive players), and one ‘keeper. Each position is designated by a color headband.

As the game goes on, a seventh player joins the field: the seeker. The seeker’s sole job is to catch the golden snitch — an additional, neutral player dressed in yellow with a flag tied behind their back. Once the snitch is caught, the team that catches them gets 150 points and the game ends.

Penn State’s quidditch team practices two or three times a week, going over drills and strategies in preparation for tournament play. Like with football, the team splits into position groups to work on specific drills.

Matt Noah | Onward State

Sophomore captain Jonah Renbaum joined the team during his freshman year. He was looking for a new sport when he got to Penn State and stumbled upon the quidditch team.

He leads the beaters through practice and is one of the team’s starters. He also has very little involvement in the Harry Potter fan world.

“I have read two or three books, seen one or two movies. I don’t really care about Harry Potter,” Renbaum said. “I am in it for the sport.”

Captains make an effort to unite the team on and off the field. Renbaum notes that the team hosts activities, like hiking and socials, to encourage camaraderie and create a community atmosphere.

Matt Noah | Onward State

Sophomore Katrina Bynum is a tournament director for the team, along with her normal position of being a beater. She enjoys the sport because she feels it offers a more inclusive environment than other co-ed sports.

“This is the first sport [with co-ed teams] where the guys were substantially less sexist to you as a teammate than other co-ed sports,” Bynum said. “This is a lot more inclusive.”

Sophomore Olivia Egan echoed Bynum’s sentiments.

“When I was a freshman, I was hesitant coming in playing a co-ed sport, but as soon as I joined, everyone was super nice and they learned my name immediately and they made me feel part of the team right off the bat,” Egan said.

The team also works to ensure that though quidditch is a contact sport, players can avoid contact if they don’t feel comfortable engaging in it. Renbaum and the team’s captains take this into account when assigning positions.

“This is a contact sport, but by no means do you have to engage in contact,” senior Mitchell Giordano explained. “You can avoid it, you dodge it, you can work around it. So while it may seem intimidating, you definitely are not required [to be physical].”

Club President Ciara Coombes called the team her family, and emphasized the bonds it promotes between its members.

“If it weren’t for this,” she said, “I don’t think I would really have a group at Penn State.”

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About the Author

Owen Abbey

Owen Abbey was a Secondary Education major before he graduated from the wonderful institution known as Penn State. When he was not writing for the blog, he enjoyed rooting for the Baltimore Orioles and Ravens, supporting Penn State basketball and softball, dreaming of all of the ways he would win the TV show "Survivor," and yes mom, actually doing school work. All of this work prepared him to teach his own class of students, which was always his true passion. He still can be found on Twitter @theowenabbey and can be reached for questions and comments at [email protected]

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