Adam Cohen, Ph.D
“When we headed to Middlebury for their 3rd World Cup, I was in awe. The people from other teams were so varied. Our own team had our varsity baseball team's pitcher, the president of the anime club, the lacrosse captain, a photography student, and a few other randoms. It‘s the only sport where jocks and dorks can coexist. It really is like no other sport on earth.”
J.K. Rowling has accomplished more than conquering the literary world (over 400 million books in the Harry Potter series have been sold) and the movie industry (over seven billion dollars grossed worldwide). According to the 2008 Kids & Family Reading Report, she can also be given accolades for increasing children’s desire to read: "three in four kids say reading Harry Potter or having someone read Harry Potter aloud has made them-interested in reading other books." But beyond all of those successes from the franchise, there could be yet another benefit rising in schools across the country.
The above quote was taken from one of the thousands of passionate participants of a game called quidditch, also known as Muggle Quidditch. Based on the fictional sport in the Harry Potter books, it was founded in 2005 at Middlebury College. Currently, over 300 colleges and high schools have created teams while hundreds more around the world are being formed. According to the International Quidditch Association (IQA), one of the major goals is, "to promote Quidditch as a new sport and lead outreach programs to increase athletic participation among children and young adults and bring magic to communities."
Getting people to participate in organized sport is a greater challenge than ever before. With hundreds of channels on cable television, a constant flow of new video games or computer systems, as well as internet and social media entertainment, there are many excuses and distractions that keep students away from sports. While the visual of kids who literally run around on brooms, throw "quaf?es" (volleyballs) and "bludgers" (dodgeballs), and chase after a human "snitch" (a cross-country runner or wrestler who is draped in yellow), might seem outlandish at first, this type of team sport does provide an activity and an environment for students who normally would avoid places like the football field or baseball diamond.
The IQA touts the game as a combination of rugby, dodgeball, and capture-the-flag. Quidditch combines athleticism and silliness which potentially attracts a new demographic of participants and like most sports, it requires running, jumping, throwing, and tackling. Points are scored when "seekers" successfully throw a ball through one of three hoops. Simultaneously, "beaters" serve as defenders who throw dodgeballs at opponents to stop them. Finally and similar to the fictional version, the game concludes when a flag attached to the snitch is captured (Further information on the rules may be found here: http://www.internationalquidditch.org/rules/.
Additionally, due to the rare nature of quidditch as a full contact, coed sport and the lack of existing research on coed sport, this activity provides a unique opportunity to investigate gender issues and equality. Results have shown significant impact on gender views of the players involved (i.e., stereotype reduction, heightened desires for inclusivity and equality, and increased self-esteem). One participant sums up the change in attitude and perception the sport can create: “At first I was a little hesitant about playing aggressive against girls, but after that, no mercy! After playing for awhile now, I truly appreciate coed sports because these girls are tough! Some are tougher then I will ever be!”
While many coed efforts have fallen short in creating an environment that promotes gender equality and inclusivity, the IQA and the sport of quidditch seems to have succeeded. Although some might say that it has not gained mainstream attention, it seems to have grown beyond a simple parody of a pop culture phenomenon. With thousands of players and fans around the globe, a World Cup event that is growing larger annually, and even an exhibition between five different countries during the 2012 Summer Olympics, the sport is gaining momentum and reaching more people every day.