This year, VCU quidditch team headed for World Cup

Danielle Elliott

Contributing Writer

While the Harry Potter movie series begins is dramatic two-part end this month, some students at VCU can take solace in something other than re-reading the seven-book series.

VCU’s quidditch team will be attending their fourth World Cup on Saturday and Sunday. The event mimics the event in the Harry Potter series, but features more than just qualifying teams.

The tournament that the team, Wizengamot, is attending involves 45 schools nationwide, three of which are high school teams. This year, the cup is being held in New York City for the first time, something Puccio is excited about.

“Last year, and the past three years [the cup] has been at Middlebury College in Vermont,”  Wizengamot’s president Britni Puccio said. “You can only take up to 20 people [to New York], which is sad cause we have a team of over 30…but we do have people on the team coming up to cheer us on…they wouldn’t be able to do that if it was in Vermont.”

Quidditch – a game popularized by J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter novels that influenced a generation – would appear, by definition, rather difficult to play in reality.  The game the characters in the books played was a sort of cross between soccer and rugby, plus flying broomsticks.

“Part of the rules is that you have to be on your broom at all times,” explained Britni Puccio, senior and captain of the VCU Wizengamot, VCU’s own quidditch team.  “And if you’re not then it’s ‘free falling’ and it’s considered a foul.”

The VCU Wizengamot – which actually makes do with non-flying “muggle” brooms – was formed in 2008.

“There were three people at the first meeting.” Puccio said. “We just met inside the commons and said ‘Yeah we want to play quidditch,’ and by the end of the first semester we had eight solid people on the team.”

In the beginning both team members and equipment were sparse. The team had no real practice field and used what they could find to represent the various types of balls the game used in the Harry Potter books.

“We used to play by Harris. We had no real hoops and our bludgers were just like bouncy balls.” Puccio explained. “It was very low tech in comparison to what we play now.”

Since those early days the team has grown to close to 40 members. Team members have uniforms, regulation balls, and follow the rules outlined in a 93-page rulebook distributed by the International Quidditch League – a self-described “magical nonprofit organization,” whose aims include “utilizing the game to inspire young people to lead more physically active and socially engaged lives.”

“The quaffle is regulated to be a volleyball, bludgers are dodgeballs,” Puccio said.

“Hoops, there’s a design for them but we have our own way of doing hoops which I feel is very effective. Snitch is always going to be a tennis ball inside a sock tucked inside of the shorts. So yeah everything has become a lot more uniform.”

Of course, just as Rowling’s magical balls have been substituted with “muggle” (non-magic persons) equivalents, the VCU Wizengamot uses simple household broomsticks – for lack of flying ones.

Other rules include a distance of 40 meters between opposing teams’ hoops, special procedures for catching the snitch, and a group of referees to keep said rules enforced.

“There are five referees,” Puccio said. “There are  two goal referees, one at each goal, a head ref that checks for common fouls, and two bludger referees … when the snitch comes out onto the field one of the bludger referees becomes a snitch referee, to monitor the snitch and make sure no one is getting physically aggressive.”

For the muggles among us: Bludgers (dodgeballs for the Wizengamot) are thrown at players in order to disable them from play for a short period of time.

“If you get hit by a bludger, you have to hold onto your broom, drop whatever you are holding, go back to the hoops tag them, and then you can be back in play.” Puccio said. “It’s to simulate the time it would take to fall off your broom and get back on if we were actually flying.”

As the game proceeds, the quaffle (a volleyball) is thrown through hoops in order to score points. The snitch is used to time the game: once a team member catches the snitch (in the books, a tiny golden sphere with wings; for Wizengamot, a tennis ball in a sock), the game is over.

VCU’s team is a member of the Virginia Quidditch League, along with teams from University of Richmond, Old Dominion University, and Christopher Newport University, to name a few.

Recently there has been talk of quidditch becoming officially recognized as a sport by the National College Athletics Association. The University of Maryland submitted the petition for certification last week and many other schools, VCU among them, are interested in the outcome.

“(Certification) would definitely be a game changer,” Puccio said. With NCAA certification, quidditch would be under the jurisdiction of the association, not the International Quidditch League.

VCU Wizengamot has a Facebook page where they post of the home games. Practices are held in Petronius Jones Park at 1400 Idlewood, about a 10-minute walk from campus. The team is open to anyone interested in joining and encourages enthusiastic individuals to come to practice and learn the rules of the game. CT

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