Thursday, February 2, 2023

Making magic on the field: MSU Quidditch team aims for inclusivity, community

December 6, 2022
Photo courtesy of the MSU Quidditch team.
Photo courtesy of the MSU Quidditch team. —
Photo by Courtesy Photo | The State News

Snitch, Quaffle, Chaser, Seeker and Keeper. If these terms mean anything to you, then you may be a "Harry Potter" fan. But to the MSU Quidditch team, these are the balls and positions that rule their favorite fantasy sport. 

However, to the team, these are not fantasy. The MSU Quidditch team, like many others internationally, have made this fantastical sport into a reality, traveling to play others in the game that originated in the "Harry Potter" novels.

In the movies, Quidditch may be seen as a sport with flying brooms and magical balls. However, the team has turned it into a full contact support with a mix of techniques from other sports, such as rugby or football.

MSU Quidditch President Jack Myers was attracted to the team because he was a fan of "Harry Potter." He stuck around for the people on the team.

“I wouldn’t call myself a huge fan now, but it’s more that I love the sport and I love the people," Myers said. "That’s why I continue to do it.”

The game is notoriously complex, with four different balls and a Snitch on the field. A Snitch is a flag runner introduced in the middle of the game that changes the objective. Myers explained it makes the game that much more engaging.

“A lot of sports … it’s that back and forth … there’s no point in the game that they bring in new components to it and change the whole setup of it,” Myers said.

The USQ, or the United State Quidditch governing board, has made the sport full contact. Different rules have been adopted since the version seen in the movies, like score caps and different ways to win the game.

The game also has to balance the magical world with reality, navigating real world physics that don't support magic brooms. Instead, the team uses PVC pipes to create an illusion. 

“A lot of the elements have kind of gone farther away from that fantasy and more into that sport environment," MSU Quidditch Events Coordinator Bridgette Weiss said. "It’s the element of there’s something … unique about this sport that combines many different elements of sports.”

Weiss said comprising a team of people who believe in teamwork is what makes the sport truly magical. The team does practice demonstrations at events like Sparticipation to attract new players. 

“People hear that name of Quidditch…and say ‘what’s that?’” Weiss said. “When they actually see it and start playing it, it really brings a lot of people in.”

Myers said their team is composed of a lot of retired student-athletes like himself that were looking for something social and active to do on campus.

“A lot of the people on our team are maybe a little bit more nerdy than the usual student, but it’s a very accepting club," Myers said. "We have people of all walks of lives and backgrounds. If you’re interested in playing a sport and having fun with it, this is the club for you.”

The mixed gender nature of the sport makes it gender inclusive. 

"Not a lot of sports can have everyone play,” Myers said. “It's a very gender-diverse and gender-progressive sport … it’s up there if not the most progressive sport.” Weiss said that she enjoys doing full-contact sports, something she could never do in high school because she is a female.

MSQ alum, current staff member and photographer of the team Charlie Woodside also said that the inclusivity encouraged him to join as a trans man.

“Any team sport I wanted to play like rugby and volleyball I couldn’t play, I would be put on the female team," Woodside said. "As a trans man, that’s not something I wanted to do. If I was given the opportunity to be on the men’s team, they might coddle me or they might target me.”

The author of "Harry Potter," J.K. Rowling, is known for making transphobic comments as well having problematic depictions throughout her writing that has outraged fans. Because of this, USQ has been moving away from "Harry Potter," separating the sport from the author and the series. To do this, they even initiated a name change from Quidditch to Quadball, allowing the sport to have its own identity.

“USQ and us in general have taken many stances to try and create that separation. … They were very big in focusing on LGBTQ rights, were very pro-trans and very pro-all genders involved in the sport," Weiss said. "We want that open environment and allow anyone who wants to play the sport be able to play the sport without any biases whatsoever.”

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MSU Quidditch has also adopted the game name change within their organization, but have been hesitant to change the name of their club for recognition purposes across campus. They would not be surprised if that were to change by next season to allow for open inclusivity.

The name change also comes from copyright issues on "Harry Potter" terms that the team has been working against for years, wanting their sport to be free to grow separate from novels and movies.

“It’s not just being changed to be queer-friendly, it’s being changed to give us distance, give us more rights, to build the sport and give us more legal rights to market," Woodside said.

With inclusivity being at the forefront of the sport, the MSU Quidditch team prioritizes community over all else.

“You get to know people in your region and out of your region," Woodside said. "It makes it more fun. It also uplifts the whole community in the sense of knowing each other and … being able to trust each other to not hurt each other on the field since it is a contact sport.”

Weiss said her favorite part of the team is the community she plays with, being able to connect with others across the region. MSU has a friendly quidditch rivalry with the University of Michigan, gaining friends through their passion for the niche interest.

“The community really is what keeps it afloat and keeps it going," Weiss said.

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