When most people think of Quidditch, they picture fictional wizards on flying brooms. But the sport of muggle Quidditch – a full-contact combination of rugby, dodgeball, wrestling, flag football and other sports – has continued to grow in popularity, and this week, Ryerson’s own team is headed to the national championships.
Quidditch is played by a team of at least seven people with four roles: chaser, keeper, beater and seeker. The chasers use a ball called a Quaffle (volleyball) to score points through hoops situated on stands, while keepers try to defend against them and beaters use Bludgers (dodgeballs) to disrupt the flow of the game. All the while, seekers are trying to remove the snitch ball from the snitch runner to get 30 points and end the period. The game is mixed-gender and players are required to hold brooms between their legs for the entirety of the game.
Ryerson Quidditch first appeared on campus around 2010. Since then, they’ve been sent back and forth between the Ryerson Students’ Union and Ryerson Athletics due to confusion over their classification as a sports team or a club. Last year, they were given status as a intramural sport, even though the team plays against other schools and is registered with Quidditch Canada, the national organization dedicated to leading and advancing the sport. As an intramural team, they aren’t given funding by the school, so the team created a GoFundMe page to raise money for its trip to nationals.
Current captain and coach Benjamin Légere, a fourth-year photography student, said the team is excited to attend Nationals for the first time, and the enthusiasm is shared by Quidditch Canada.
“We’re really excited that Ryerson is able to come this year, they’re a historic team,” said communications director Yara Kodershah, adding that one of the main organizers of the event is Ryerson alumna Alex Downey-Ging. “It’s really cool for us from an organizational perspective to be able to host a team that has such a long history with us.”
The event will host 17 teams at the Canadian Football League’s Tim Hortons field in Hamilton, the largest stadium Quidditch has been played in, according to Quidditch Canada.
With a ranking of 12 out of 14 Eastern teams and a record of 0-9, Ryerson’s team hopes to play well but isn’t focused on winning. As a smaller, more casual team, Légere said they don’t have any major goals for Nationals.But a near-win at regionals in the fall has given them some motivation to secure a victory.
“It was just kind of the quirks of Quidditch that made us lose,” Légere said. “Coming off of that, being so close and knowing that our team has the potential to push through, we’re hoping to beat a few of the teams that are more in our pool.”
The cost to participate is one reason why the team is so small, Légere said. It costs $250 to be a registered league team with Quidditch Canada each season, along with an individual fee of $45 per player. They also have to pay team and individual fees for each event, in addition to transportation. Because of that, the team tends to have about 10 to 13 core members, with others who attend practice when they’re able.
“It’s a bit of a commitment money-wise with transportation and whatnot, so it can kind of add up,” Légere said. “We try to be as inclusive as possible and it’s understandable that others can’t make the full commitment. But everyone’s allowed to come to practice.”
Teammate Anna Spencer, who graduated from theatre production last year, said inclusivity also comes from the design of the sport itself.
“I’m not necessarily the most sporty of people and so other sports are a little bit intimidating, even local intramurals, but Quidditch is this fun, open combination,” Spencer said. “If you aren’t a runner, there’s a position for you to play. If you are more into brute force, there’s a different position you can play. You kind of have got everything you want.”
Spencer said she’s looking forward to the sport aspect at nationals, but she’s just as excited to meet new people, especially considering she met her current roommate and many of her friends through the game. But it’s also been a social experience in other ways, as she gets to explain the sport of Quidditch to skeptics who slowly come around, even if their first question pokes fun at the game. “Usually it’s the question, ‘do you fly?’” Spencer said. “And yes – we fly through the air after we’ve been tackled.”
The contact is one area of the game that adds even more surprise when people learn of muggle Quidditch, said 2017 RTA grad AminaBejtić.
“Usually they’re kind of shocked that the sport exists in the first place, and when you tell them that it’s full contact, you just get another weird reaction,” said Bejtić laughing.
Bejtić likes the game so much that she hasn’t just persisted past graduation, but she even continued playing after getting a serious concussion two years ago. The concussion was bad enough that she doesn’t remember it happening – she only knows what happened because of a video showing the moment she was tackled.
Injuries aside, Bejtić looks back on her five years playing on the team with fondness as she heads into her final tournament. Her personal goal for nationals, like most of the team, is just to enjoy it.
“Being a small team, we’re not always winning games, but we just try really hard and in the end, it’s not really about getting that trophy,” said Bejtić. “It’s just about having fun because it’s a weird sport and we’re just doing what we like.”