When college tour guides show prospective students around their campuses, one thing they’ll often say in an attempt to show the diversity of activities offered by the school is, “We even have a Quidditch team.” However, with almost 200 officially recognized teams nationwide, the “Harry Potter”-inspired game is no longer a rarity. The club sport has become an especially popular fixture at universities, and the University is no exception. Subscribe to our Sports newsletter At Virginia, the Quidditch team is made up of two divisions — Jefferson’s Army and the Whomping Wahoos. Jefferson’s Army is for those that love the sport but don’t quite have the time to commit to the highly-intensive schedule of the Whomping Wahoos, who are currently gearing up for nationals in Texas. In J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter books, Quidditch consists of wizards and witches flying on brooms trying to either score goals with quaffles, disrupt opponents with bludgers, or, of course, catch the elusive snitch. While the flying had to be dropped and the snitch had to be transformed from a magical golden ball into a person in order to take the game from the pages of the book to real life, many of the original rules have been maintained. The result is a contact sport that combines components of rugby, dodgeball and tag. “The game itself is amazing to watch,” said Kenny Darcy, a third-year College student and member of Jefferson’s Army. “It's very complex. There are four balls on the field at all times – a quaffle and three bludgers — and there is always something going on. It is more complicated than many people think and there is a lot of strategy involved.” Complex is certainly a fitting word for the sport, as evidenced by its 172-page manual. However, all the intricacies of Quidditch are what makes it so unique and unlike the other sports that people are used to. Another thing that makes the Quidditch team different from many other club sports at Virginia is that you can join the team, as most people do, without any experience. You don’t even have to be a die-hard Harry Potter fan who has followed the books and movies so closely that you know the ins and outs of the game before ever stepping on the pitch. Though, of course, there are some of those people, too. But, overall, the team is a mix of people who joined for various reasons. “It was the beginning of my first year and Quidditch just sounded like something you could only do in college and I figured it wouldn’t hurt to give it a try,” Darcy said. “I stayed for the people. Both teams are filled with some of the funnest, realest people I have ever met, and I have made some incredible friends.” While everyone might join the sport for different reasons, the relationships that the team has fostered and the culture of Quidditch at Virginia has been a defining feature of the club and a common factor in keeping people a part of the program. “We are such a family,” Darcy said. “Each member of the team is invested in his or her friends, and we support each other in events around Grounds” “My favorite thing about Quidditch is the people,” said Julia Marks, a third-year College student, club president and Whomping Wahoos member. “Everyone I have met, from my team or another team, has been so welcoming and made me feel like I belong in the Quidditch community. The general sportsmanship and friendliness that I see every time we practice or go to a tournament makes me so glad that I made the choice three years ago to start playing Quidditch.” The investment and commitment that the team has made to each other has not only made for a good experience, but it has brought a tremendous amount of success for the Whomping Wahoos this year. “We have a lot of fourth-years who have been major contributors on our team for the past few years,” Marks said. “This year, they have successfully filled the leadership positions on the team. These seven fourth-years, who make up a third of the 21-person roster, bring a lot of competitive spirit to practice and are really committed to making our team the best that it can be.” The team is certainly on the right track to being the best they can be as they prepare to play in the U.S. Quidditch Cup, starting April 14. “The mentality is definitely to go in with a competitive outlook,” Marks said. “Right now, we are ranked the fourth highest college team in the country, which means that we are in a position to make history for U.Va.’s Quidditch Club. I think we are all looking forward to advancing to the second day of the tournament, which we have only done once, and being able to compete against the top-ranked teams in the country.” While competing at the highest level is a priority, the club also looks to share their love for the sport through volunteering in events that the team calls “Kidditch Events”. “The team volunteers at local elementary schools to teach children in afterschool daycare programs about the sport,” Darcy said. “We also volunteer for children’s birthday parties.” Whether on the pitch or off the pitch, there’s no denying that the Virginia Quidditch Club has a clear love for this newly popular sport that extends far beyond the pages of the Harry Potter novels.