Oxford Universities Quidditch Club

So what is quidditch anyway?

Quidditch of course originates from JK Rowling’s Harry Potter series. However, the sport of quidditch that is played in the real world is vastly different and may just surprise you with how thrilling it is to play.

Quidditch is a mixed-gender, full-contact sport for two teams of seven players, each mounted on broomsticks, using three different kinds of balls and playing four different positions. It fuses elements of rugby, handball and dodgeball, making the sport seem rather chaotic to a casual observer. Once you’re familiar with the basic rules, however, quidditch is an exciting sport to watch – and even more exciting to play.

The Chimeras line up before a match.Photo by Amalia Bastos 2014

What would you like to know about?

There are four positions that anyone can play as, distinguished by the coloured headbands they wear.

Chasers play with the quaffle and wear white headbands. A team has three chasers. They try to throw the Quaffle through the opposing team’s hoops to score 10 points.

Keepers also play with the quaffle but wear green headbands. A team has only one keeper. They play much the same as a chaser but have additional abilities that allow them to better defend the hoops. It is their job to protect their team’s hoops, although they can also score just like a chaser.

Michael Holloway, a keeper, evades the enemy chasers.Photo by Amalia Bastos 2014

Beaters play with the bludgers and wear black headbands. A team has two beaters. They try to “knock out” the other team’s players by hitting them with a bludger, which forces them to dismount their broom and run back to their own hoops before they can remount and continue playing.

Seekers try to catch the snitch and wear yellow headbands. They try to grab a tennis ball hanging from the back of the shorts of the snitch. If they do, the game ends and they earn another 30 points for their team.

Sarah Melville, a seeker, reaches for the snitch.Photo by Amalia Bastos 2014

There are three types of balls on pitch at once

There is one quaffle, which is a slightly deflated volleyball. Getting this through the opposing team’s hoops scores 10 points. You can get it through the hoop in any way you like – in any direction (from the front or from behind), by shooting, or by simply putting your hand through the hoop with the quaffle in it.

There are three bludgers, which are slightly deflated dodgeballs. You cannot score points with a bludger directly, but hitting a player with one knocks them out and hence a well placed bludger can make or break an attack and potentially win a match.

There is one snitch, which is actually a tennis ball in a sock, tucked into the back of the shorts of an impartial official known as a snitch runner. Catching the snitch by pulling it from the snitch runner’s shorts ends the game and scores the catching team 30 points.

David Goswell holds up a snitch victoriously.Photo by Amalia Bastos 2014

At the start of a game, all the balls begin on the centre line, whilst players start within their keeper zones. On the referee call of ‘Brooms up!’, the players must race each other to get to the balls first.

Usually a player is allowed to propel their ball any way they like: throwing, blocking, or kicking (limited to one kick per player before it is picked up).

Players can tackle an opposing player who has a ball, but only from the front, below the neck and above the knee, and with one arm.

While in their own keeper zone, keepers cannot be tackled or beat.

Angus Barry lands a superb tackle on Charis Horn.Photo by Amalia Bastos 2014

If any player is hit a by an opposing beater’s bludger, they must dismount from their broom and return to their hoops before they can play again. The exception is that if a beater catches a bludger thrown at them then they are not knocked out.

When trying to catch the snitch, seekers may only use one arm at a time and cannot push or otherwise touch the snitch. The snitch, however, can do whatever they like to the seeker (within the bounds of safety), including throwing them to the ground or pulling their brooms out from under them.

If any player interacts with a ball or player not of their position then that is a foul.

Jamie Cash contests another beater for the bludger.Photo by Amalia Bastos 2014

The pitch is a large rectangle with rounded corners. At each end are three hoops of differing heights, with the order from left to right being smallest/tallest/middle.

Next is the keeper line, behind which that team’s keeper gets special privileges. Teams can perform substitutions anywhere behind their keeper line.

The balls start spread out on the mid-line whilst the players start half way between their hoops and their keeper line. At the start of a game the players race to get to their balls first.

Probably the defining characteristic of quidditch is that all of the players must be on a broom at all times. The only exception to this is when knocked out due to being hit by a bludger (see the Rules tab).

The broom is more than just a relic from JK Rowling’s original description of quidditch – as it changes one’s running speed and one has to learn to catch balls without dropping it, it actually acts as a handicap, similar to only passing backwards in rugby or dribbling in basketball.

It has to be roughly broom sized and shaped, but can be made of any safe material. Some people use traditional brooms with bristles, but they are no longer common in competitive play…

Charis Horn and Abby Whiteley find a more inventive use for some brooms.Photo by Amalia Bastos 2014

Unlike most other sports, quidditch is mixed-gender. And unlike, as far as we know, all other mixed-gender sports, quidditch takes measures to ensure inclusion on two different levels. First, inclusion of women, who are traditionally underrepresented and excluded in sports due to ingrained sexism. Secondly, quidditch is highly inclusive of transgender athletes, including nonbinary people, who are often excluded from competitive sport due to rules that take view gender as a strict binary directly corresponding to the sex one was assigned at birth.

This is accomplished through a rule that specifies that a team can have no more than four players who identify as the same gender on pitch at any one time. A player’s gender is defined solely by whatever they say it is; there is no gatekeeping or medical certification involved. We believe this constitutes an important effort to break down the barriers of institutionalised views of gender that still persist today.

OUQC is constantly striving to reflect the goals of the gender rule in our practice, and we do our best to teach ourselves and newcomers to rethink our internalised assumptions regarding gender.

There is a lot of hugging after quidditch matches.Photo by Amalia Bastos 2014

A good place to start would be to come to an OUQC training session. On the calendar you can see all the upcoming sessions. Every one is suitable for beginners so all you need to do is turn up.

If you want to read more of the rules, then check out IQA’s 2016-18 Rulebook, the rulebook currently in use by QuidditchUK, our national governing body (with amendments), as well as the International Quidditch Association.

If you’re of a competitive nature then the sport can cater for you. There are tournaments happening all year around, although mostly during university term times, and some tournaments, such as Christmas Cup, are even aimed directly at new players.

A very happy Charis Horn thinks you should play quidditch now!Photo by Amalia Bastos 2014