Bludgers, Bruises and Broomsticks

Quidditch players bring imaginary sport to the University


An athlete bounds down the field grasping a ball tightly, ready to score. Players about a foot taller than him attempt to strip the ball away with brutal tackles, while two more players trail behind, armed with dodgeballs. They are ready to take aim at any opportunity to upend their opponent from their broomstick. This is Quidditch, and it exists outside of Hogwarts. In fact, it takes place frequently on Grounds.

Second-year College student Pete Hanner said he was shocked by the intensity of the sport when he tried out for the first time.

“It caught me off guard because I didn’t realize tackling was part of the rules,” he said. “So this six-foot-three guy takes me out at tryouts so I have my back in the mud and I’m thinking ‘Oh my god, what have I gotten myself into.’”

The rules for Quidditch are fairly complicated. Each position specified in the original Harry Potter series remains, but instead of a flying ball, Bludgers are regular dodgeballs. Acting as a tiny golden Snitch, a person dressed entirely in yellow runs for the Seekers to catch.

“If you see a guy in yellow running down the Rotunda stairs, it’s the Snitch,” first-year Engineering student Bradley Yhudson said.

The University version of Quidditch has a gender rule — at least two members of both genders must be on the field playing at all times.

“We have two teams and they’re both co-ed and there’s an equal level of respect,” University Quidditch founder Kyle Stolcenberg, a third-year College student, said.

A relatively new team, the Quidditch community is a tight-knit group. Somewhat of a fringe sport, Quidditch fosters a special camaraderie even among ostensible rivals. Stolcenberg recalled bonding with the University of Richmond’s team at the University group’s first intercollegiate matchup.

“[After the game], we went to a sub shop in Richmond and had lunch with [the opposing team] and just hung out,” Stolcenberg said. “That’s something you don’t get with other sports. It was crazy on the pitch and they hit really hard but as soon as the game is over, they go up to you and give you a hug.”

University Quidditch teams travel to tournaments bi-weekly. At their most recent match against Virginia Tech, University players were awarded a sportsmanship award.

“Now, we have this brick that’s painted gold that says ‘sportsmanship’ on it,” Stolcenberg said. “Even though it’s just a brick, I’d rather have that than the trophy.”

Fellow Quidditch player and third-year College student Anna Leonard said she takes pride in representing the University when the team travels.

“When other teams look at us, they see U.Va., they see Thomas Jefferson’s university, and everything that we do is under even more scrutiny because we’re from such an elite university,” Leonard said.

While Harry Potter fans are sure to be familiar with the sport, the Quidditch team is not limited to J.K. Rowling fans.

“We do have a few people in the system that have never read the Harry Potter books, have never seen the movies, and just came out to play once,” Stolcenberg said. “Once you play once, that’s it, you love it.”

The team hopes to gain more members, more support and even compete in the World Cup. Team members are excitedly preparing for their home tournament on Grounds March 1.

“[The tournament will] be one of those memories of being a U.Va. student that you’ll never forget,” Leonard said. “When I think about being a student at U.Va., I will always remember playing Quidditch.”

Published January 26, 2014 in Life

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