Quidditch has arrived at UCR

Wesley Ng/HIGHLANDER
Wesley Ng/HIGHLANDER

UCR finally has that one sport it’s always needed. Football? Nope. Dodgeball? Think again. It’s Quidditch! That’s right, the fantasy sporting sensation from the Harry Potter series has exploded in real-life popularity across the globe, and has recently come to UCR as an unofficial, community team.

Begun just this year, Captains Alyssa Burton, Ty Rush and Kevin Chen have created Remus’s Riverside Runners. Membership is currently open to everyone in the Riverside community. Filled by a flexible roster of around 15 players, mostly UCR students, Remus’s Riverside Runners are a fully fledged member of the International Quidditch Association (IQA) which boasts thousands of teams on every continent, worldwide.

You might ask, how does one play quidditch in a world devoid of whimsical wizardry? Well despite it’s connotations, Quidditch is a serious game. Our very own Remus’s Riverside Runners are currently six wins and three losses into their first season, and the IQA ranks them 143rd in the world. Not yet convinced? Let me break it down for you.
According to the latest official IQA rulebook, Quidditch is a fast-paced, fully co-ed contact sport with seven athletes on each team playing four different positions. There is no time limit; the game ends when the snitch is caught.

In keeping true to the sport’s literary beginnings, there are five balls in play. One volleyball serves as the quaffle, through which points are scored. Three dodgeballs represent the bludgers which are heaved at players on the pitch to momentarily knock them out of play. A tennis ball held inside a sock poses as the snitch. The snitch is velcroed onto the back of a neutral player’s shorts, leaving it partially exposed. This neutral player is the snitch runner, who is constantly harassed by both team’s seekers. A captured snitch ends the game, and is worth 30 points. The field is 48 yards long and 33 yards wide. There are three upright, self-supporting hoops on either goal line, standing three, six and four and a half feet tall, respectively.

The positions are filled by three chasers, two beaters, one keeper and one seeker; all of whom sprint back and forth across the pitch holding broom sticks between their legs. The chasers do most of the scoring; they move the quaffle down the pitch in hopes of throwing or kicking it into the opposing team’s goals, scoring 10 points each time. The beaters chuck the bludgers at anyone, temporarily disabling that player from the game. The keeper plays defense, sacrificing life and limb to keep the opposing team from scoring by any means necessary. These positions are by no means fixed; players often substitute in-and-out multiple times per game, switching positions, exchanging high-fives and broomsticks, all the while rejuvenating the palpable excitement and energy that drives each Quidditch match.
On the pitch, the chaos of these many rules begins to make more sense. After watching Remus’s Riverside Runners compete in a five hour tournament Sunday, Dec. 2 (playing five matches total, three of which they won), it became clear to me that Quidditch is actually a fusion of Harry Potter fiction and many other physical activities. There are elements of dodgeball, football and soccer which influence this up-and-coming sport.

Still not convinced as to the sporting validity of Quidditch? Well, I substituted in as a beater last Friday night, Nov. 31, during the Remus’s Riverside Runners practice scrimmage at the Riverside Sports Complex. We were playing full contact, on a dimly lit pitch, in the rain. Honestly, I’m no sportsman. But, having been tackled head-on into a puddle of mud in between taking a few wet, slimy dodgeballs to the face, I can personally testify that these quidditch aficionados take their sport quite seriously. And, rightfully so. After the scrimmage, Rush explained to me how, “there’s a lot of athleticism to [Quidditch]. It’s evolved to where it’s become a difficult sport.”

In the words of Jerome Gage, a founding member of Remus’s Riverside Runners, “There have been dog piles so intense, that the only way to separate it out is when the beaters get in there and start knocking people out to release possession of the ball.” Hearing this, Burton explained to me how, “there have been concussions, broken ankles, broken wrists, [and] a lot of [other] injuries,” that the more enthusiastic players have suffered during the game. If all this doesn’t challenge your preconceived notions of Quidditch as a serious sport, nothing will.

Gage put it best when I interviewed the team after the Friday scrimmage. “Nerds can finally compete in something serious,” he said. “If you like tackling people, come on out!” Gage’s comments sparked a rebuttal in Burton. “It’s okay if you’re not a Harry Potter fan; it doesn’t matter. This is an exciting new organization that anyone can get involved with… A lot of people who play don’t read or [have] even seen the Harry Potter series,” she said. “Everyone should come out and play!”

Having walked a proverbial mile in Remus’s Riverside Runners’ shoes, I have to agree. Quidditch is very athletic. Quidditch is a serious sport. It’s definitely fun. If you’re interested in joining Remus’s Riverside Runners, send Burton an email at rrrquidditch@gmail.com. You can also check out their facebook page, just search UCR Quidditch.

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