Texas Quidditch takes flight, no wand required

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Photo Credit: Courtesy of Michael E. Mason

When you watch your first Quidditch game, you’ll see a field full of players on brooms trying to catch the golden snitch — and it will be hard to separate the sport from what you know about “Harry Potter.”

While many of the players on the Texas Quidditch teams initially joined because of their love of J.K. Rowling’s series, they quickly realized the sport was more than just a fan club. Since the group formed in 2010, Quidditch at UT has become highly competitive.

“Quidditch is not just so popular nationally. … It’s becoming a global sport,” physics senior Audrey Wright said. “Almost every major city I go to, there’s a Quidditch community there, and they know of Texas Quidditch.”

The sport, which got its start in 2005 and is governed by the International Quidditch Association, has more than 300 teams with more than 4,000 athletes nationwide.

Although a love for “Harry Potter” is what attracts many players to the sport, the players said the sport exists entirely separately from the books and is, by itself, fairly grueling. As with any other club sport, the team trains regularly and competes in national competitions.  

“I didn’t think it would be much more than some other ‘Harry Potter’ fans hanging out,” Wright said. “It was just something totally not what I expected. It was so athletic and so cool and so unlike any other sport that I’d heard of. ‘Harry Potter’ is what brought me in, I suppose, but it’s definitely not what kept me in Quidditch.”

Texas itself has six different Quidditch teams: two traveling teams — varsity Texas Quidditch and Austin Quidditch — and four house teams that compete only with each other for the House Cup trophy. The four house teams compete just once a month under Slytherin, Ravenclaw, Gryffindor and Hufflepuff banners.

Although the on-campus teams adopt both the names of the Hogwarts houses and the basic gameplay from the books, players forget about the sports’ origins on the field.

“The connection of ‘Harry Potter’ and Quidditch is really just so severed,” Wright said. “It’s not even there. I’ll see someone in a black cloak at the World Cup, … and it takes you a second [to remember].”

The sport even draws non-“Harry Potter” fans who are simply interested in exercise and want to meet new people.

“My old coach from the Slytherin dynasty — he has never read the books,” chemical engineering junior Ryan Davis said. “He doesn’t know the basic plot. He knows there’s a guy named Harry Potter, and that’s about it. He was our captain, and he was in it 100 percent for just being able to run around and tackle people.”

As other Texas teams are fumbling, Texas Quidditch has shined, gaining national attention for its success. The varsity Texas Quidditch team recently won its third-consecutive World Cup championship with a 120–90 victory against Lone Star Quidditch in Rock Hill, South Carolina.

“World Cup 8 competition was so fierce,” Wright said. “[Our final game] was the most fun, the most stressful, the most competitive and probably the fiercest competition I’ve ever felt.”

The more aggressive competition at this year’s World Cup, known as World Cup 8, demonstrates the sport’s growth overall — but also shows the UT players have been able to adapt and thrive. 

“Going from World Cups 6, 7 and 8, it really shows how much overall Quidditch has become so much more competitive,” Wright said. “And it really speaks so much louder for UT that we’ve been able to stay on top through all these changes.”

The teams at Texas accept new members at the beginning of each year, regardless of skill level or level of fandom.

“How many times in your life do you get to try something so new?” Wright said. “It’s a great way to meet people. It’s an awesome place to get involved, and we have many different aspects to our club.”