For two days only, the University of Victoria might as well be renamed Hogwarts when it hosts the Quidditch nationals next April.
Quidditch Canada – the governing body for Quidditch, the once fictional sport from the Harry Potter series – recently announced the university would be the host site of the Canadian championship, and the UVic Valkyries are more than ready to play on their home turf. The team has been around since 2010, starting as a friendly activity for students in residence that has evolved to a recognized sport.
“We had a community leader who wanted to do some sort of ice breaker for the residence she was working in,” said Valkyries president Cynthia Chao. “Now we’re part of Vikes Nation and we get access to fields and equipment and tons of great resources.”
“We’ve experienced a bit of a boom – in the last three years, we’ve quadrupled in size,” said head captain Misha Whittingham. “There are a lot of new players coming in from more sporting backgrounds. A lot of rugby players, basketball players. They see it as a way to ply their skills that uses a whole range of abilities.”
Quidditch is a full contact, multi-gender sport that pits two teams of seven against each other, with the aim of scoring points by throwing a quaffle (a partially deflated volleyball) through any of the opposing team’s three hoops – all while holding a broomstick between your legs. While Harry Potter and his classmates played it 100 feet in the air on broomsticks, there are some logistical changes for real life Quidditch.
“Obviously, we can’t fly,” said Chao, “and we don’t have giant baseball bats that we’re swinging around at head height.”
There are four positions in quidditch: chaser, beater, keeper and seeker. Each team has three chasers (who try to score with the quaffle), one keeper (who protects their own goal), two beaters (defenders who can temporarily eliminate opponents) and one seeker (Harry Potter’s position, who joins the game after 18 minutes of play).
Each goal is worth 10 points. The beaters have bludgers (dodgeballs) that they throw at opponents to force them out of play. Eliminated players must dismount their brooms and drop any quaffles or bludgers they’re holding, then run to their own hoops and return to their broom to re-enter the game.
Additionally, while there are four beaters in total, there are only three bludgers, meaning the team in possession of two bludgers can more easily control the game.
Then, at the 18-minute mark, the seekers for each team get to join the game when the golden snitch appears on the field.
“In the movies, the snitch is this magical, tiny little ball that whizzes around,” said Chao. “In real quidditch, we have a snitch runner – they’re dressed in bright yellow, with a tennis ball in a sock attached to the back of their shorts.
“That tennis ball is the snitch, and the seekers’ goal is to grab that tennis ball from the sock, ending the game and earning their team 30 points.”
The snitch can make or break the game for either team and requires strategy from both sides. For instance, if a team is behind by 30 or more points, their seeker – the only position that can take the snitch – may have to run defence against the opposing seeker to allow their team to score more points and make up the difference.
With the nationals coming to UVic, Whittingham said the championship is important for the sport’s popularity on the Island.
“It raises our profile quite a lot,” he said. “I think our recruitment next year is going to benefit from it.
“It’s definitely a motivating factor, too – there’s a little more passion in our eyes.”
Chao echoed the team’s excitement, noting it’s an opportunity for the Valkyries to shine in their own backyard.
“We’re really excited to have all of Canada coming in April,” she said. “We get to play on our home turf and we get to show the rest of Quidditch what we’re like.”