Muggle Quidditch Returns to Oxy for Second Season

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Author: Kara McVey

They line up on Sunday mornings clad in capes and goggles. Each of them is ready to fight for the win. They are the few, the proud . . . the Oxy Quidditch Team.

Straight from Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, Quidditch has become one of the most popular new sports on college campuses throughout the U.S. since it was introduced at Middlebury College in 2005. Over 100 colleges (predominantly East Coast schools) now boast Quidditch teams, including Amherst College, Columbia University and Boston University.

Following in this tradition, Occidental became one of the first colleges in the area to pick up the sport last spring, when captain Emily Ritchie (junior) and her friend Lindsey Forrester Archer ’09 co-founded Oxy’s Quidditch team. Now, with weekly practices and the fierce dedication of the club’s leaders, Quidditch at Oxy is going stronger than ever.

“Muggle” Quidditch is, of course, a slightly different adaptation of the sport than you may have seen last summer, when the latest installment of the popular wizarding series “Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince” was released in theaters. Instead of flying around a Quidditch pitch on a broom, players run around a field holding a broomstick between their knees. The “Golden Snitch” is not an enchanted sphere of incredible speed, but rather a runner dressed in yellow. “Muggle” players dash about the field trying to score by throwing a ball through their opponent’s hoops, just like in the Harry Potter series, but they don’t have to worry about wild bludgers. Despite changes such as these, the sport remains true to its original spirit. The game is exciting and fun enough to keep players coming back week after week.

This year, Ritchie shares captaincy of the team with Annie Lehmann (sophomore) and Caroline Osborn (sophomore). The three of them preside over practices, manage fundraising and organize group events, such as a planned outing to a Wizard Rock show.

In a phone interview, Ritchie stressed the hard work that her co-captains, along with treasurer Sara Roberts (senior), put in to make Quidditch work. “The organizers are really generous, and they put a lot of time into the details that keep the thing running,” she said. Their commitment allows Quidditch to continue.

Another vital element of the game is enthusiasm. Though the team is fairly “non-committal” and “laid-back,” according to Ritchie, the game relies on the energy and gusto of the players to come to life. Most importantly, the players must have a sense of humor and be willing to look a little silly. Ritchie recommends that anyone who comes to practice come with humility, because, as she says, the sport does require you to “run around in a cape.”

Most players are fans of the Harry Potter series, but some just play because it’s a unique experience. “Some just want to try something different,” Ritchie said.

During most practices, the captains have the teams run drills and play scrimmage games against each other. They hope to eventually play against other colleges, but there simply aren’t very many Quidditch teams yet here in Southern California. Last year, two of the Claremont schools had teams, but neither continued, so now their likeliest future opponent is Chapman University.

Oxy’s team is also trying to gather funds to attend the Fourth Annual Quidditch World Cup at Middlebury College in Vermont next year. The event’s managers have offered to pay for the team’s entry and rooming fees. However, airfare will be fairly expensive.

As the Quidditch Team at Oxy is only a club, it doesn’t receive any sports funding from the college, so the team organizers are planning for different ways to earn money for the trip. They plan to sell more Oxy Quidditch t-shirts (which have sold fairly well in the past), as well as selling special BPA-free water bottles in the quad coming up in a few weeks.

The team is always ready to welcome new players. According to Ritchie, the team is low-pressure and it doesn’t require players to make any serious commitments, because the main point of the game is to have fun spending time with an eclectic bunch of students.

Moreover, it’s an interesting and unusual way to get exercise. The team has players of all ability levels, and doesn’t require try-outs, but players must receive the standard pre-sports medical exam.

If Quidditch sounds appealing to you, head up to the Upper Soccer Field this Sunday at 11 a.m. and remember to bring your game face.

Harry Potter fans seem pretty non-threatening most of the time, aside from the occasional wanding, but when on the Quidditch pitch, you should be prepared for some friendly competition.

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