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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

Quidditch team combines athletics with friendship

Published: October 5, 2012
Section: Features

The Quidditch team is often seen practicing on Chapels Field, running like mad amid giant hoops, volleyballs flying abound, some players chasing and others keeping guard, and all the while each playing while holding a broom between their legs. Needless to say, this team is a favorite among campus tour groups. But what looks like a riot-of-a-sport from the outside is, in fact, a highly developed and strategic game.

“When I [first] visited Brandeis I think I saw them practicing,” Jason Haberman ’15, Commissioner of Brandeis’ Quidditch team, explains how he got started with the sport: “I never did cross country or track—I did theater in high school—but people told me I was a fast runner. I ended up trying it and loving it! It’s a lot of great people coming together and it’s so much fun.”

Wittily named for the judges in the beloved Harry Potter series, Wizengamot was founded as an intramural team by Harrison Goldspiel ’13 in the spring of 2010. The team has grown impressively and has become an officially recognized club sport in the past year. Wizengamot itself has taken flight lately as it has competed against many universities at the Southern New England Quidditch conference, and has even made it as far as the Quidditch World Cup last year. While the last World Cup represented “100 teams, 1,000 players and four different countries,” Haberman beams, “this year they will accept six international teams, tentatively.” Advancing to such a large-scale competition so early in its athletic career, Wizengamot has already begun to leave an impressive mark on the Quidditch realm.

Actually playing the game itself, however, is more strenuous than it seems. Haberman says that Brandeis students would be most surprised by “the athleticism of it.” He takes a deep breath, and patiently explains the logistics of the game, noting that all of these players are doing their part while ‘flying’ on brooms.

There are three Chasers on a team, whose goal is to try to score points by throwing a quaffle into three hoops of varied sizes. A volleyball is used as the quaffle, which the chasers pass among themselves as they near the hoops. One keeper protects his team’s hoops from the opposing team’s chasers. Two more players, called Beaters, are armed with three dodgeballs that serve as bludgers, which they throw at the other players. (This contrasts to the image that is featured in the books and movies, where they used less-friendly bats.) If a player is hit on his person or broom by a bludger, he must dismount and run to touch one of the hoops before beginning to play again.

While the Chasers, Keepers and Beaters are all battling each other for points in a fast-reacting game of strategy, the last two positions, the Seeker and the Snitch, seem to have the most fun of all. While the Harry Potter books and movies represented the Snitch as a tiny, golden, flying ball, in this league, the Snitch is a yellow-clad person who enjoys the right to make mischief. “The Snitch can do anything it wants: they can climb trees, they can throw things—we have seen Snitches spray silly string and throw water [on players]. The Snitch can even remove people’s headbands, can de-broom them, can pull out grass and throw it at people,” Haberman said. The Seeker is responsible for chasing the Snitch around a designated area and his goal is to snatch a Velcro-attached tail from the Snitch’s waist.

All of this chaos is happening within a sport that is full-contact, co-ed and does not use protective padding. “Although we can have mouth guards,” he laughs.

For Harry Potter fans who are still more piqued than fazed by the intricacies of Quidditch, there is good news: “We are a club sport, so everyone who wants to be involved can get involved,” Haberman pitches, though he has said that the team is already quite large, with upwards of 30 people attending each practice. “But we can limit to 21 people per-team per-game [because of the International Quidditch Association’s rules]. Every week the captains choose who plays based on a lot of different qualities, not just athletic ability. They select based upon, in no specific order: attitude, dedication, experience and skill.” This year, the team captains are Alex Brenner ’15 and Theresa Fuller ’13.

The team’s success on the field, despite having to play with broomsticks, is also about their sense of togetherness.

“It’s really important how all these people work together as a team. It’s important how they all have to have bonds to work together and play with everyone on the field. It’s very much a team sport.”

Wizengamot is making a couple key changes this year to promote this unified environment, Haberman says: “Now we’re doing conditioning, and while we do stress that everyone is open to joining and that everyone is interested in individual improvement, we are more stressing that everyone make individual improvement so that we can get to the level of other teams.”

Off the field, the players are also spending more time together creating stronger ties as friends, hoping that this will translate to better teamwork: “We’re making sure to bring in lots of bonding events, especially the nights before games, whether it’s a game night in Castle Commons or a potluck in a player’s Mod, we want to work better as a team on the pitch,” he said.

On Nov. 4, Wizengamot will be hosting a game on Chapels Field against the University of New Haven. This team won’t need magic wands to win, they say, because they already have a magic all their own.