Swarthmore Quidditch

As Swarthmore undergoes its now annual transformation into a secluded wizarding utopia, you may notice that, well, it already is one. We don’t, admittedly, have a massive lake populated by merpeople — and the continued lack of any courses touching on Arithmancy and Defense Against the Dark Arts clearly suggests a staggering and systemic curricular deficiency — but we can take heart in the college’s surplus of archaically academic stone buildings, reportedly enchanted expanses of forest, and, legend has it, a prodigious array of dungeons under Parrish Hall. Perhaps most importantly, we have Quidditch.

Muggle Quidditch, as it’s popularly known (though many players would fervently reject this “offensive” term), was founded in 2005 by a group of students at Middlebury College. Since then, it has gone from niche collegiate pastime to full-blown craze to an established global presence, with teams registered in locations ranging from the US, Canada, and United Kingdom to Croatia, Iran, and Russia, according to the International Quidditch Association, the sports governing body.

Swarthmore’s own Quidditch team was founded only two years ago, by a Middlebury student studying at the college for a semester. Perhaps surprisingly at an institution so thoroughly immerse in Harry Potter fan culture, the team initially struggled to gain a sizable group of regulars. “We started getting an actual player base last year when Strath Haven High School started practicing with us, because then we had enough players to actually play Quidditch,” says team co-captain Cole Harbeck ’15. A sizable group of first-year recruits means that the team now numbers at roughly eight to ten committed members.

The gradually increasing membership hasn’t slowed the groups enthusiastic and occasionally aggressive recruitment efforts, aimed at any and all wanderers potentially willing to join practice and play. Remarked co-president Elaine Zhou ’16: “We have a habit of yelling at people that walk by, ‘Come play Quidditch!’” It is a tactic that has resulted in a range of spontaneous playmates with little to no expertise, including an array of specs, a strolling group of girls from Virginia, and an entire family from South Korea.

The rules of the game are fairly straightforward for anyone familiar with those of its magical cousin, with slight modifications to account for the sad but (for now) unavoidable fact that the brooms — “Costco 2005s,” according to co-captain Andrew Early ’16, “with a high-class red finish” — remain resolutely earthbound, the playing balls unenchanted. Instead of the snitch, for instance, a human snitch is designated to roam the campus until caught by either team’s seeker, though the team frequently plays without a snitch, due partly to insufficient numbers and partly to the job’s perceived loneliness and undesirability. “We just pretend there’s a snitch,” said Harbeck. “The seeker is the easiest position to get rid of. Usually it’s just a casual stroll around campus with the other seeker. That’s not necessarily true, but captures off the field are pretty uncommon.”

Possibly the most distinctive sight associated with the burgeoning club is that of students sprinting across Mertz Field with brooms held between their legs. But as Harbeck puts it, it’s just part of the game, and one that quickly begins to feel natural: “When I’m at Quidditch practice and I don’t have a broom between my legs I feel uncomfortable.” Harbeck is also quick to point out that “Quidditch is technically a full contact sport,” and the team has instituted a regular drill called Tackle Muggle Muggle Wizard to get new members accustomed to the technique involved.

As core membership grows and the club solidifies, the team has begun to morph into something of a serious athletic pursuit. “When we came into this semester, we were just a discombobulated group of people who came together to play Quidditch,” remarked Harbeck. “We’ve started running actual drills about the mechanics of the game, and it’s gotten more intense.” Long-term goals include attending more tournaments, securing further SBC funding, and, of course, expanding the core group of members. The team is also in the process of applying for PE requirement accreditation. “I can confidently say we’re going to have a PE credit by exactly a year from now,” commented Zhou, and with the prospect of Quidditch entering the Swarthmore College Catalog, the club’s future is looking bright. Above all, the team emphasizes that, as Harbeck says, “Quidditch is about fun, and definitely about getting better, but also about fun.” Or, as Early put it: “There’s no way to take yourself seriously when you’re flying around on a broom.”

And what of the persistent rumors that Swarthmore actually is a secret wizarding school? “The Qudditch Team has no comment on this issue.”

The Swarthmore Quidditch Team practices at Mertz Field on Fridays at 4 and Sundays at 2.

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