It takes exceptional athleticism to excel at any sport, but what about one where you’re playing one-handed with a broomstick between your legs at all times?
That’s one of the cardinal rules of quidditch, the magical sport from author J.K. Rowling’s beloved Harry Potter series.
What started as the fictional game of Hogwarts school has since been adopted at real-world universities across the globe, including Simon Fraser University (SFU).
Renamed muggle quidditch – with the word "muggle" also derived from the series, meaning a person who lacks magical ability – the sport has been on university fields for a decade, with more than 30 teams in Canada and 300 in the U.S.
Rhyss Gardiva and Talor Mykle-Winkler each joined the SFU Marauders in the fall of 2014, the second season for the SFU team. While they’ve only been there one season, they’re considered veterans as some of the founding members have already graduated.
"I thought it was just going to be a regular Harry Potter fan club when I saw the quidditch sign," said Gardiva, a health science major with a minor in molecular biology and chemistry.
"I was very wrong." Mykle-Winkler, who just finished her first year studying biomedical physiology and kinesiology, wasn’t caught off guard, and she felt her background in rugby would translate well to the field.
"It looked like fun – I’d read the books, I was a big fan of the books, so it was sort of, why not play quidditch?" she said.
The goal of quidditch is to score more points than the opposing team. There are two teams of seven with four main positions: Chaser, beater, keeper and seeker. (For more details on how the sport is played, read the online version of this story at Thenownewspaper.com).
It’s a competitive sport – and not without its share of casualties.
"I actually got this chipped tooth from my first tournament," said Gardiva, "but I did give the guy a concussion."
"It’s full contact co-ed," added Mykle-Winkler. "There are some girls on our team who are five-foot-four, maybe 100 pounds, and they’re on the same field as this six foot tall exfootball player." Contrary to misconceptions, quidditch isn’t just "a bunch of nerds running around."
The Marauders have a mix of Harry Potter bookworms and typical jocks working together on the field.
"There are some people who’ve never even read or seen any Harry Potter and they just joined because it looked like a fun sport to play," said Mykle-Winkler.
Their teamwork paid off in March, as the SFU Marauders placed fourth in the Canadian Quidditch Nationals, which featured such teams as the UVic Valkyries, the Winnipeg Whomping Willows and the Toronto Avengers.
SFU secured fourth with a hard-fought victory over the Alberta Clippers, who had beaten them three times previously.
"It was quite awesome that we got to play with them and actually beat them," said Gardiva, noting some of the Clippers are members of Canada’s national quidditch team.
Now that the season is over, the Marauders won’t hit the field until the fall, but fantasy tournaments for individuals are set to take place over the summer, with one tentatively scheduled at SFU’s Burnaby campus on June 13.
And as the team heads into its third season, they’re always looking to recruit more players – whether you’re a musclebound jock who’s never read the books or a pint-sized Potterhead who quotes the passages constantly.
"If you ever want to try quidditch, don’t judge it because you’re running around with a broom," said Mykle-Winkler. "It’s a physically demanding game with a bunch of the coolest people you’ll ever meet."