For all the hidden Harry Potter fans across campus, the time has come to step out of the broom closet.
That’s because the GW Hippogriffs, the University’s new student Quidditch league, has arrived. Formed by sophomores Kelsey McPherson and Jenny Durina, the new organization brings together students who have a penchant for combining witchcraft with a healthy dose of rough-and-tumble athleticism.
McPherson and Durina, who are the co-presidents of the league, said the idea of a collegiate Quidditch team came to them while they were making cupcakes for a friend’s birthday earlier this year. After seeing a broom in the kitchen, a conversation about snowball fights morphed into one about J. K. Rowling’s fantasy sport.
From there evolved a real-life adaptation of the game among 10 of McPherson and Durina’s friends in University Yard.
“It’s basically like you see in Harry Potter except without the magic – well there is magic, in the hearts of the players,” McPherson said. “But really, no flying brooms.”
In their version, as in Rowling’s, teams are composed of seven members each: three chasers, two beaters, one keeper and one seeker. All are required to have at least one hand on his or her broom throughout the game. Chasers score goals by throwing or kicking a quaffle (usually a soccer ball-type object) through hoops guarded by keepers, while beaters must protect their teammates from the infamous bludgers, flailing balls that can force chasers to drop the quaffle.
Meanwhile, the seeker must catch the elusive golden snitch – but here the game further differs from Rowling’s vision. Instead of an elusive flying ball, the snitch is a player dressed in gold who runs all over the field tackling other players. Once the snitch is caught, the game is over.
At the University Yard game, McPherson and Durina got creative with equipment, using snowballs as player-battering bludgers and fruit as goal-scoring quaffles. And for a time the rudimentary setup worked, until one of the quaffles gave out – literally.
“It was actually really fun. We definitely had a blast,” said sophomore MacKenzie Hovermale, who participated as a chaser. “We played until the produce that we were using as balls broke.”
After the messy first run, the duo of self-proclaimed Harry Potter enthusiasts researched collegiate Quidditch teams online. Though they did not know what to expect, they were sure Harry Potter’s widespread popularity would lead them to find similar-minded students elsewhere.
“We figured somebody somewhere was as big of a nerd as we both were,” Durina said.
Their intuition proved correct when they found that more than 200 colleges and universities worldwide participate in the Intercollegiate Quidditch Association. Dating back to an intramural Quidditch match at Middlebury College in 2005, the association was officially established in 2007 and provides rulebooks for college, high school and community teams. In addition, it hosts the Intercollegiate Quidditch World Cup, which brought more than 20 teams back to Middlebury last year.
McPherson said GW had been registered with the association at one point but the team has since dissolved. Now that The GW Hippogriffs is an official student organization, it is in the process of trying to re-affiliate.
Interest in the group among students is already growing. Since a preliminary meeting last month that attracted about 20 curious attendees, the league’s Facebook page has spiraled to 70 fans. United by their love for the game, members range from gung-ho players committed to taking specific positions on the field to dedicated fans who have offered to take photos and help with league organization.
For now the GW Hippogriffs, whose logo features George Washington swinging a magical hatchet while riding a fierce-winged hippo, is divided into two practice teams – Griffinpuff and Slytherclaw – until there are enough members for a four-house system like the one found in Rowling’s novels. While its short-term goal is to organize a few games on the South Lawn or the National Mall, the group seeks to eventually establish a healthy rivalry with Georgetown.
“We’d like to find out [if a team actually exists] and summarily defeat it,” McPherson said.
The competitive spirit aside, the league offers a fun outlet for students to relax and partake in a game that does not make the average list of school sports. “It’s just to meet some other fun people, have a good time, dress up like a wizard maybe. I don’t think any other club offers that,” McPherson said.