Quidditch: An Introduction to This Actual Sport (Yes, It's Real)

Alan BlackAnalyst IIIJanuary 16, 2012

The word quidditch may or may not sound familiar to you, depending on whether you are familiar with the Harry Potter series. In the series, it is the most popular sport played in the wizard community and involves things such as flying brooms and magical sports equipment with a mind of its own.

Now, there is a real-world adaptation of the sport, known as "Muggle Quidditch," "Ground Quidditch" or simply, "Quidditch."  This is not a joke; there is an actual sport based on a fictional sport found in a series of fantasy books about magic and sorcery.

Before you knock it or dismiss it as "not being a real sport", let me give an introduction to the sport of quidditch, and maybe you just might become a fan of the sport.

Beginnings, Growth and Governing Body

The sport of quidditch in its most widely-accepted form was begun at Middlebury College in Vermont in 2005. Students there decided to adapt the sport from the Harry Potter series and create a set of rules.  There were some obvious differences from the sport described in the book (due to the whole "magic" part that obviously doesn't translate into real life), but for the most part, the game strongly resembled quidditch as described in the books.

Soon, the sport became popular at Middlebury and became an intramural sport. Quidditch then began to spread to other colleges in the northeast United States, and its popularity grew. 

In 2007, the first Quidditch World Cup was held as an intercollegiate match between Middlebury College and Vassar College, which Middlebury won.

After that 2007 Quidditch World Cup, competitive Quidditch began to take hold, and by the time the 2008 Quidditch World Cup rolled around, 12 schools were represented there, including one from Canada.

As each year went by, more and more schools were fielding competitive quidditch teams, and the number of participating teams at each World Cup grew. By 2010, the sport had grown to the point that an official governing body was created, the International Quidditch Association (IQA). The IQA became incorporated in Vermont, but would later move its headquarters to New York.

Currently, the sport of quidditch consists of hundreds of teams spread out mostly across the United States and Canada and some which exist on other continents, such as teams in France and Finland.  The teams are a mix of collegiate, high school and community teams.  It is also a co-ed sport, with a 4-3 rule (meaning four players of one gender and three of the other must be on the field for each team at any given time).

In the 2011 Quidditch World Cup, 94 teams from four different countries were present.  The sport's popularity just continues to grow.

Basic Overview of Rules, Equipment and Objectives

The main objective of the game is to score more points than the other team. Points are awarded for scoring goals (10 points) or catching the Snitch (a tennis ball in a sock, worth 30 points).

The field is an oval approximately the size of half a football field. It is divided into two halves, with a midline that separates the field into two equal halves. Towards the backline of each half are three goals equally spaced out next to each other in the center, consisting of hula-hoop sized hoops mounted atop poles of three distinct, varying heights.

Around each goal area is a space known as the Keeper Zone, in which each team's keeper (goalie) is immune from certain forms of interference by the opposing players. Goals are scored by tossing a ball through any of the three hoops from either side of the hoops (meaning that players on offense can score by wrapping around the back of the goals and throwing the ball through from behind).

The ball used for scoring is a slightly deflated volleyball known as the quaffle. It is usually thrown, passed and caught using only one arm.  

The reason that players usually use only one arm is due to the fact that they must keep a broom planted between their legs as they play, and so they usually use one arm to hold the broom up. This greatly increases the difficulty of the game, as it is no easy task to jump, run, weave and dodge while keeping a broom between your thighs. 

Failure to stay mounted on the broom results in a player being "off-broom", and they must race back to and touch their own goal and re-mount their broom before resuming involvement in play. 

Other equipment used includes three dodgeballs known as "bludgers," which are thrown at opposing players. If a player is hit with a bludger, they are "knocked off" and must drop any ball they are in possession of and race back to their own goal and perform the same procedure as mentioned above in "off-broom."

There is also the aforementioned Snitch (tennis ball in a sock). It is hung from the back waistband of an individual known as the snitch runner, who is not affiliated with either team and is basically a part of the same group as the referees. 

The snitch runner leaves the field and uses creative means to avoid having the snitch pulled off their waistband. This includes tactics such as scaling walls and trees, riding bicycles, throwing players to the ground and throwing water balloons. The snitch runner does not have a broom between the legs, so they can run faster than the players and go places that are inaccessible to those with brooms between their legs (Ever tried climbing a wall with a broom between your legs? It's pretty much impossible).

An element of the game that surprises most newcomers is the fact that quidditch is very much a contact sport and contains tackling. Players can tackle opposing players in order to stop attacks, force turnovers, disrupt strategy, etc. All tackles must be done within the peripheral vision of the player being tackled, meaning no tackling from behind is allowed. Neck and head tackling are also illegal.

The game is also unique in that there are specific types of players (chasers, beaters, keepers, seekers) who are allowed to perform only certain actions in play, depending on what their position is.  Colored headbands are used to signal an individual's position.


Chasers are basically the offense of a team. They wear white headbands, and the only ball they are allowed to touch is the quaffle. Their main objective is to score goals. They can also tackle opposing chasers and play defense. There are three of them in play for each team.

Beaters are the only individuals allowed to touch the bludgers and wear black headbands. Their main objective is twofold: prevent opposing offenses from scoring by knocking them off with the bludger and also assist your own offense by clearing paths for them by knocking off opposing defenses. There are two beaters in play for each team.

Beaters are not allowed to touch the quaffle and may not tackle opposing chasers or keepers. However, they are allowed to tackle other beaters.  Also, since there are three bludgers but only two beaters per team, each team's beaters are only allowed to have two possession of two of the three bludgers at any given time and are not allowed to "guard" the remaining bludger.

Keepers are the goalies of each team and wear a green headband. There is one in play for each team.  While in the keeper zone, the keeper is immune from certain forms of interference by opposing teams. This means that nothing happens to them if they are hit with a bludger, and they cannot be tackled. Keepers are also allowed to perform defensive actions that are illegal for other players, such as reaching through a goal to block a shot from the opposite side.

Keepers can also be used on offense. When a keeper leaves their keeper zone, they become subject to the same set of rules as chasers.

Seekers do not interact normally with other players on the field, but rather, focus on the objective of catching the snitch. They can leave the field in order to pursue the snitch. There is one on each team, and they wear yellow headbands.

Seekers are subject to a "seeker floor," a pre-determined amount of time in which they must stay on the field at the beginning of the game before pursuing the snitch runner. During this time, the seekers are on the edge of the field, but do not interfere with play.

If a seeker has pursued the snitch runner back onto the field, they then become subject to the effects of bludgers, meaning that opposing beaters may hit them with the bludger in order to prevent them from catching the snitch.  When the snitch is caught (known as a "snitch snatch"), the game ends.

This is but an overview of the game of quidditch. For more info, visit the official IQA site. There is also a documentary detailing the 2010 Quidditch World Cup named Brooms Up!

Who knows, maybe you could become the next star quidditch player.


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