When I tell people I play for the Michigan Quidditch team, people typically roll their eyes or giggle. Then the two big questions follow: “Who’s the snitch?” and “Do you fly?”
The snitch is a runner who is trained to tackle, backpedal and defend a ball hanging by a Velcro strap at all costs — it ends the game, and one misstep could end a team’s season.
The brooms don’t fly, but are still between players’ legs anyway. They’re PVC pipes that are lightweight, sleek and don’t draw all the attention and questionable looks that an actual broom would.
It seems funny and odd to envision running around while holding a broom and trying to score a semi-deflated volleyball by throwing it through a set of three hoops staked in the ground.
But it’s possibly the most fun thing I’ve ever experienced.
And some may think that the players don’t take it very seriously, since it’s neither a club nor a varsity sport.
But we put just as much heart into it as any team would, and we exhibit just as much commitment to improving our skills.
We love winning, we love the celebration that follows a snitch catch, and we want to bathe in that glory this weekend when we travel to Grand Rapids for our annual Midwest Cup, which will pit us against the best teams in our region.
For many teams, this weekend means a bid to the Quidditch World Cup VIII in April. Being held in Rock Hill, S.C., the World Cup is an international event that draws thousands of spectators and includes the best 80 teams.
But it’s not an easy road. The game is more physical and grueling than most are led to believe. Quidditch is also a full-contact sport. At the World Cup, the stakes are higher, and players don’t mess around as many are vulnerable to injuries.
But like any other sport, there are rules to keep players safe — you can’t wrap around the neck, you can’t infringe upon a defenseless player and you can’t lead with your shoulder when making a collision. As a result, the rate of injuries has decreased through the years with better officiating.
As an unpredictable and natural aspect of sports, injuries don’t detract from how fun it is to actually play the game. We have an elaborate playbook of calls for use during games, we have to think on our feet to make smart choices and we have phenomenal talent all around. Additionally, the social aspect of meeting people with diverse interests and backgrounds makes being a part of the group all the more meaningful.
Aside from playing, the Quidditch team does a lot for the community. To try and spread the enjoyment of the game, the team attends birthday parties to teach younger kids how to play. Quidditch also hosts a Yule Ball every winter semester, which draws more than 300 students.
Quidditch may always have the reputation of being an imaginary game from J.K. Rowling’s “Harry Potter” series. But the real-life adaptation has been gradually garnering the respect it has desired and deserved.
And for those who give it a try, it can be much more than words on a page.