I OFTEN GET likened to the fictional character Harry Potter in terms of appearance and that description has probably never been more accurate than when I played Quidditch for this edition’s Nouse Tries . My Potter looks weren’t in full bloom, though, as I was wearing contact lenses after hearing the sport was full-contact.
Upon arrival, one member asked me how I heard about the York Horntails, perhaps out of amazement that I had found them. I certainly got a sense of the small and close-knit nature of the club from the off.
As we all know, Quidditch is the fictional game invented by J. K. Rowling, which involves flying on broom sticks. Instead, we played a boots-on-the-ground, muggle version of the game that has existed internationally since 2005 and came to campus in 2012. It is a mixed-gender contact sport with rules in place to ensure there are no more than four players of the same gender on a 7-person team at any time.
There are two main positions: chasers and beaters. Chasers try to score by throwing the quaffle (a deflated volleyball) through one of the three circular hoops. Meanwhile beaters try to take out chasers with bludgers (dodgeballs). As you can imagine, I was an easy target and therefore made the frequent trip back to my hoops to touch back in. There is also a seeker on each side if the snitch is in play, but I didn’t get to experience the apparent chaos this causes. Victory is secured by having the most points by the time the snitch is caught. Most importantly, all of this occurs while holding a short plastic pole, or if you imagine hard enough, a broom stick, between your legs.
The two-hour session started with a warm up which involved stretching just about every muscle I think I have in my body, before it broke into a quick match. Now this is where things started to get interesting – in a very perplexing way. From the side-lines it probably looked like I didn’t know what was going on. That’s because I didn’t. There were players with different coloured headbands with different roles doing different things, some with volleyballs, others with dodgeball, all riding broom sticks. Deputy Sports Editor Jordan McWilliam, roped in on camera duty, summed it up perfectly: “what the f*** is going on?”
Unfortunately, I didn’t have Hermione to help me as Ron so comically did in the Half-Blood Prince. But the players seemed to take sympathy with me and directed me on the pitch in my frequent moments of confusion. It didn’t seem to matter what I did, whether I was a bystander or if I moved forward with the team, my team were scoring points with little input from yours truly. It seems paradoxical, but I don’t think I’d ever been so cold playing sport. By the end of the session, my hands were so cold that untying my boot laces and unzipping my bag became laborious tasks.
What came next was most definitely not the highlight of the session, or what I ever would have expected to be doing during Quidditch training – fitness circuits. But when the York Horntails has TeamUK players within its ranks and a competition in Germany to prepare for, I shouldn’t have been so surprised. Eight laps of the Quidditch pitch. Five press ups and five sit ups after each lap. And there I was thinking I’d come to try Quidditch.
Next it was time to practise match tactics. This week there was a focus on ‘sweeping’ the opposition. This involved shunting someone I had known for all of five minutes out of the way so that a chaser with the quaffle had a clear route to the hoops. An interesting ice breaker, indeed. Except when it was my time to do some sweeping, I left the chaser with a clear route to nothing, as I had managed to dismantle the hoop in the process of shunting an opposition player. I can assure you that I am not the Incredible Hulk; the goals come apart pretty easily to avoid injury.
The Horntails are an extremely friendly and successful club at the forefront of this growing sport. They compete nationally and later this year will be taking part in the European Quidditch Cup in Germany against teams from 20 different countries. It may sound like the Horntails are only looking for seasoned Quidditch players, but that certainly isn’t the case.
Don’t be put off by the intense session I took part in, as the club also runs more casual Saturday trainings. Most of the members I spoke to had never played Quidditch before coming to York, and one said they couldn’t resist joining after seeing how nice the kit was at Freshers’ Fair, so do consider channeling your inner Harry Potter and trying it.
If you would like to know more, or if you’re interested in Quidditch, contact [email protected]