Running with a broom between your legs would be strange for most, but for these Carleton University students it’s a simply magical experience.
The university has their very own quidditch team, based on the sport popularized in the Harry Potter series. The Carleton team is one of many like it in Canada and the world, with official rules and competitions.
Based in fiction, the game allows for flexibility, which is what brought chaser Cait Woolner into the sport.
“I just wanted to see how it worked,” she says. “I wanted to see what adjustments had to be made, leaving the Harry Potter universe and applying it to muggles, but I got hooked.”
The Carleton team is highly ranked, excelling at competitions. Carleton’s main competitor has been Montreal’s McGill University Quidditch, both being Canada’s oldest teams. Carleton had never managed to best their rival until last year’s national competition at the Canada Cup.
“For a long time in Canada, McGill was the team to beat,” says Alex Bourassa, a beater on the team. “They were about indomitable. (When) we were able to defeat them there was a sense of accomplishment and achievement for everybody who understood the sort of figure and obstacle that McGill was. (We) were so thrilled and excited.”
The Carleton team will not be making it to this year’s Canada Cup, despite a great showing at their regional competition in Kingston last month. The team cannot afford to make the trip to Burnaby, B.C. Still, the team has goals for the year.
“This year I’m a coach and I’m injured so I’m trying to focus on building the team back up,” Woolner says. “I just want to see continuity in our play and constant progression in the level of competition. I’d like to see us continue to be one of the top teams and hopefully draw new recruits.”
Despite a great track record, the team cares about more than just winning games. They play to have fun.
“It’s such a young sport,” Bourassa explains. “Every year, people are coming to the pitch with new strategies, new plays, new ideas and I’ve never been part of a sport that’s been so creative. It’s a sport that is growing and expanding at an amazing rate and there’s always something new, every game that you play.”
What makes the magic happen on the field is simply the relationship between players.
“The community is amazing,” says Zoe Mastellotto, a chaser on the team. “It’s the best experience I’ve had (throughout) my entire university experience. The friends are amazing, I love them so much.”
Bourassa enjoys relationships with players beyond his teammates as well.
“We all just have this common love for this game that is so free and open and creative to play,” he says. “It’s a larger family. I could never get into the individual sports. (I like) the team sports and the sense of unity with other people and quidditch has a sense of community.”
For players such as Woolner, the sport has had a significant impact on her life.
“Everything that quidditch has brought into my life has been better,” she says. “As a former competitive athlete, it’s been great coming into this environment and still getting to have that athletic drive and to channel it through quidditch. It’s been great to be in a team setting. It’s great to be surrounded by so many wonderful, eccentric people and it’s great to have something to look forward to every week.”
The game is open to everyone, not just hardcore Harry Potter fans. Many players on the Carleton team have not even read the books, yet still people assume a certain level of geekiness is required to play.
“It’s always a struggle when we go to say physiotherapy or a doctor’s office or we register with the competitive clubs committee and tell them that we’re a quidditch team,” Bourassa says. “There’s always that social stigma. Nobody wants to be the Star Wars nerd, nobody wants to be the Lord of the Rings nerd, nobody wants to be the Harry Potter nerd. I feel like a lot of people think by playing quidditch that would be the next step. It absolutely is not. I think it is the best way you can apply an interest in any piece of fiction, by making it something that challenges you and keeps you active while having fun.”
Bourassa encourages those who are interested to get out there and mount a broom.
“Really, it’s a game that you can make it whatever you want,” he says. “It doesn’t have to be football where everything is about the aggression and the planning. It doesn’t have to be hockey where you have to skate really well. If you can hold a broom between your legs and jog a little bit, it’s the sport for you.”