By now it seems old fashioned to start of a piece about quidditch by saying that it’s “not just for wizards anymore.” Of course it isn’t. In the last eight years, teams based on the Harry Potter pastime—a fantastical combination of co-ed dodgeball, rugby, and broom riding—have cropped up at more than 160 colleges around the world. Fans have even formed the International Quidditch Association, which regularly hosts tournaments (complete with a World Cup) and, starting last year, an annual convention. QuidCon brings together atheletes from all over to discuss strategies, fundraising, and the future of a game that was never intended for Muggle-kind. Seattle hosts QuidCon 2013 at Embassy Suites Seattle July 11–15. IQA chose Seattle in order to capitalize on the recent surge in quidditch teams at Washington colleges. Interested Muggles can see quidditch matches first-hand for free at QuidCon’s all-day tournament on Sunday, July 14 at Fort Dent Park in Tukwila.
To get a handle on quidditch, we chatted with Alicia Radford, QuidCon’s founder and the chief operating officer of the IQA, to find out why the magical (full contact) sport continues to enchant more new recruits every year and which pro athlete she thinks would make a star Chaser.
How did QuidCon get started?
Back in 2010, I thought it would be great to have a kind of bonding weekend for training and leadership, just because there aren’t that many opportunities to have that sort of thing in college. There are certainly no opportunities that are quidditch-specific. It was a pretty big success in Chicago.
What are some of the hardest or strangest aspects of making quidditch a Muggle sport?
When quidditch was adapted in 2005, it was kind of just meant to be a fun Sunday dorm sport. The brooms have been there since day one; you just put them between your legs and run with them. But there are two adaptations I think are the most innovative. One was making the Bludgers just dodgeballs that you throw. In the books you hit them with bats, and that would have been very awkward. The other—this is the adaptation that made our version of quidditch very successful—is the adaptation of the Snitch. Instead of a winged flying ball, it’s kind of like flag football. There’s a neutral athlete called the Snitch runner with a Snitch sock attached by Velcro to his shorts, and the Seeker has to grab the sock, just like flag football. They only get 30 points, not 150. Not that many quidditch games are that high scoring, and you want the best team on the field to win most of the time, not just the team that has the best Seeker.
Does quidditch have star athletes or teams?
In the last couple of years, there have actually been a lot more athletes joining the sport, and I think the trend will continue. For instance, University of Texas at Austin won last year’s World Cup in April, and they're a team composed entirely of athletes. They train several times a week. Most of their lineup played varsity sports in high school. Quidditch is a club sport at that campus, and I think we’ll also see more of that as time goes on.
You said you noticed a growing number of people playing quidditch in the Northwest. What are some of the other quidditch trends you’ve observed in the last couple of years?
Mostly just new teams starting. The Northwest hasn’t really had many teams until very recently. Now there are teams starting up at University of Idaho, Cornish College of the Arts in Seattle, Western Washington University, University of British Columbia, and University of Victoria. Having QuidCon in Seattle will also allow us to reach a Canadian audience, which is great.
What are some of the standout athletic moments you’ve seen in your experience with quidditch?
I saw a 130-pound girl tackle and bring to the ground a 200-pound guy. She just wrapped him up well, and her momentum brought him down. Someone turned that into a gif on the Internet. I’ve also seen a couple different people be able to score by jumping through the entirety of the tallest goal hoop, which is six feet above the ground. I’m still not sure how that’s possible, but they’ve done it. One of the teams from Paris had a team that did that at the World Cup.
Which professional athlete do you think would make the best quidditch player?
I would love to see [dunking WNBA player] Brittney Griner play quidditch. She would be a powerhouse quidditch athlete.QuidCon 2013
July 11–15, Embassy Suites Seattle, $50 (day pass registration)