Bludgering along: UAF Quidditchers prepare for match, final exams

Jeremia Schrock / Sun Star Reporter
April 26, 2011

A field covered in ice and mud. Two goals, each at opposite ends of the pitch, stand tall and inviting. A dozen students split amongst two teams are kneeling on the ground, heads down, brooms at the ready. They are waiting.

“Eyes down!” booms a male voice. “Brooms down!” He shouts again. A brief pause before a final call, “Quidditch!”

The teams are up, brooms nestled between their legs, as they begin to play a game that is as fantastical as it is real: Quidditch. Quidditch, a game torn from the pages of the bestselling Harry Potter book series, has found a place amongst the students of UAF.

What is Quidditch? “It’s a game you play with a broom between your legs, a cape on your back and one-handed,” said Josh Hovis, a sociology student and the brains behind Quidditch on campus.

In the fantasy novel “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone,” author JK Rowling tells of her young hero playing the game of Quidditch for the first time.  The goal of the game is to throw a ball (called a “quaffle”) into one of three hoops. Like most games, whoever has the most points wins. The game is over when a ball, called the Golden Snitch, is caught.

Rowling’s Quidditch, however, is also played on broomsticks, in the air, and is a cross between dodge ball and rugby. While the brooms UAF students use are (sadly) not capable of flight, the dodge ball connection has been maintained.

If anything, the real-life version of the game is less brutal than its literary counterpart. The game exchanges the rugby aspect for a more basketball-like level of physicality, said Dawson Arthur. It is a fast-paced and athletically demanding game, with players running, sliding, panting and laughing their way across the field. Arthur, an English major, is one of the students heading up the newly founded UAF Quidditch Club.

While the game is physically demanding, it is far from exclusive. People of various physical builds, skill levels and interests are taking part. “It’s a fun time for so many types of people,” Arthur said, who stressed the games role as being both accessible, and a way to bring a diverse group of people together. “There’s something in it for everyone and everyone can play it.”

“I think it adds a different dimension to campus life and intramural activity,” Hovis said. He believes that Quidditch is encouraging a healthy lifestyle, adding that the people playing it are happy, healthy and have a sense of community.

Laurel Gangloff, a B.S. student and Quidditch player, agrees. “It’s really, really fun and positive,” she said. “There hasn’t been anything negative about it, and I’ve met a bunch of cool people!”

“I like running around with the broom,” Gangloff said. “It’s really good exercise.”

“The game is probably more fun than it has a right to be,” Hovis said. While Hovis is responsible for much of the planning and organization, the idea for Quidditch came from (oddly enough) the campus administration.

The drive for a campus Quidditch club began last October when Cody Rogers, the Assistant Director of Student Activities, received an email from Mike Sfraga. Sfraga is the Vice Chancellor of Student Affairs and was a strong advocate behind the soon-to-be-constructed Outdoor Education Center. In the email, Sfraga included a video and news article that discussed Quidditch at a campus in the Lower 48. Rogers then posted about Quidditch on Facebook and received positive responses from students. Soon after, the club was established with Rogers as the club’s advisor.

“I think it’s going to be a good sport for our freshmen,” Rogers said. “I think we can get a lot out of this Quidditch deal.”

UAF is currently the only campus in the UA system that has a Quidditch club. According to Arthur, the UAF Women’s Hockey team has expressed interest in starting a Quidditch team. Heather Barile, manager of the Pub, stated that she intends to have a Pub Quidditch team next year. “We’re shoe-ins,” she added.

Gangloff had a few words for those who were hesitant about playing in a game whose origins are in Harry Potter. “‘Just freaking go,’ is all I can say. Just try it.”

Hovis echoed that sentiment, stating that many people who wouldn’t call themselves nerds tend to have the following thought: “It’s gonna be really nerdy, but I’m gonna do this. It’s gonna happen.”

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