Even without magical broomsticks and Hogwarts robes, students from a variety of backgrounds have joined the UA Quidditch Club to play a version of the Harry Potter sport since the group’s founding in 2010.
At the American collegiate level, Quidditch is a mixed-gender contact sport that mixes elements from rugby, dodgeball and tag while incorporating the terms and rules used in the Harry Potter books, according to the U.S. Quidditch organization.
UA Quidditch Club President Rachel Provence, a junior, joined the team as a freshman when she was struggling to adapt to college life. Through Quidditch, Provence found community and friendship.
“Everything turned around for me, my grades, my emotional health ––everything,” Provence said.
Provence likes that she gets the chance to shake off her duties while playing, she said.
“Getting to play the sport is fun. You lose yourself in it,” Provence said.
LJ Williams, UA Quidditch Club vice president, a junior, thinks many people think of Quidditch as purely a Harry Potter thing and an element of “nerd culture,” he said, but he considers it to be very athletic.
The seven teammates – three Chasers, two Beaters, one Keeper and one Seeker – play the sport using PVC pipes instead of riding broomsticks –– a difficult task but one the players get used to, said UA Quidditch Club Treasurer Cordelia Underwood, a senior.
The Chasers score goals by throwing balls into hoops, the Beaters work together to distract opposing players and the Keeper guards the hoops from opposing chasers, according to the U.S. Quidditch organization.
Near the end of the game, the Golden Snitch is released, but it is not a golden ball with wings. Instead, it is a neutral player wearing yellow with a velcro tail. When one team’s Seeker captures the Snitch by pulling the tail, the game ends.
“If it is a close game, that Snitch catch will make or break the score,” Underwood said.
The Snitch is worth 30 points, according to the U.S. Quidditch organization.
Underwood joined the UA Quidditch Club her junior year as a way to make friends, challenge herself and improve her physical abilities, she said. She is now roommates with three other players on the team, none of whom she knew before joining.
“It’s brought me a lot of good friendships,” Underwood said. “It’s also pushed me in a lot of different ways.”
Williams joined the team as a Beater after transferring to the UofA in spring 2018. He first heard about the team as a sophomore in high school while on a campus tour when his campus ambassador mentioned it, he said.
Williams also serves as a trainer for the team and would like to someday open a CrossFit-style gym, he said. He enjoys the chance to create the team workouts and help players, he said.
“It is like bonding over trying to take somebody to the next level. Nobody thinks they can really do it until they do it,” Williams said.
One of Williams’ favorite memories with the team was a tournament trip to New Orleans. The trip was one of his first experiences with the team and he loved getting to travel and bond with the other players, he said.
The team has traveled to Iowa, Illinois, Nebraska and Kansas this season.
They organized a home tournament in Fayetteville in early September, inviting teams from Arkansas, Missouri, Kansas and Oklahoma.
Partnered with the Wichita State University Quidditch club, the team scored 50 points against Mizzou, the number one Quidditch team in the region, at the Midwest Regional Championship on Nov. 9-10 in Papillon, Nebraska. The Mizzou team scored 160 points.
Underwood always gets nervous before games, but knowing that the team has practiced a lot eases her worries, she said.
The team practices Thursdays and Sundays at the University Recreation Sports Complex.