Dani looks on with both excitement and frustration. She loves watching her teammates play and photographing them, but she also wants to be back in the thick of it, badly.
She’s done being a spectator.
Even though Dani won’t make her return debut until next semester, she still participates in the weekly team runs, conditioning sessions and practices. They are all really close, she tells me.
Last fall, freshman Dani Doucette suffered a concussion while playing that has sidelined her for the entire spring—a knee to the face. She readily acknowledges it’s a risk associated with the sport. Brent, the team captain, had already made me aware that several team members have suffered sprained somethings, and one game this year resulted in a broken nose.
This is not a playground game. This is intercollegiate Quidditch.
Doucette is one of the core active members of Bruins on Brooms, Belmont’s Quidditch team.
Technically, at Belmont, the team is registered as a sports club. The NCAA has not yet recognized the sport, and it is instead governed by the International Quidditch Association, the IQA.
As many a muggle know, Quidditch is the fantastical sport played in the “Harry Potter” series. Traditionally, the sport takes place on broomsticks several tens of meters in the air. Some concessions have been made for the muggle adaptation of the game. “Obviously it’s going to be a little different,” said Doucette.
Instead of broomsticks, the players fly around on pieces of PVC pipe, and instead of fly, they run.
On each end of the pitch, there are three raised Hula Hoops which the opposing teams puts a ball through in order to score. Teams are composed of seven players, which essentially include three offensive players, two defensive players, a seeker who exclusively pursues the human snitch and a goalie.
Belmont’s team was created in 2009 by four individuals.
Abbey Francis, a senior education major, and the team’s assistant captain, was one of the four. When she saw the idea on Facebook, she invited herself into the conversation and met with the others.
Since its inception, the team has retained a fairly humble roster, until this past fall.
“Last year, it was maybe six of us, and now we’re up to 25,” said Francis.
She emphatically explains to me that she is an avid Harry Potter fan, and I do not question her sincerity.
She also alleges that the majority of the team members are similar in their devotion to the Boy Who Lived. While Doucette, a self-proclaimed “Potter-nut” who has attended multiple premiers in full wizarding regalia, corroborates Francis’s assertion, Brent Gibbons, the team’s captain, has a different take on the roster’s composition.
“There are basically two types of people. The “Harry Potter” nerds, and the jocks.”
As I have guessed, Gibbons counts himself among the latter.
His handshake is firm, and there is a distinct lack of Harry Potter paraphernalia about his person for a Quidditch captain.
Gibbons, standing at 6’4”, played a combination of basketball, hockey, baseball and rowed crew in high school. It was in high school that he also got his first taste of Quidditch leadership. The jock started his high school’s team.
Intrigued by a poster in his high school English teacher’s classroom, Gibbons’s went to the Internet to find out more, which only further piqued his interest. For him, the allure of the game was less about the opportunity to play out a fantasy and more about the physicality of the sport.
“It’s an incredibly, incredibly physical game,” said Gibbons. He makes this insistence multiple times throughout our conversation.
He also readily acknowledges the skepticism associated with the game.
“I don’t know if people are starting to take it more seriously, but I definitely know that the Quidditch community is starting to get more serious,” he explained. You can see the transition taking place at Belmont.
With the team’s increased numbers has come increased regulation. The team is a now a full-fledged member of the IQA, and participated in four scheduled matches this year. They played two games against Tennessee Tech University, and two games against Middle Tennessee State University.
They already fancy TTU their rival.
Because this was the team’s first full calendar year in the IQA, they were also awarded Division II Rookie Status and invited to participate in the 6th Annual Quidditch World Cup.
Unfortunately, the team was not able to participate due to financial reasons.
On Sunday, the team held their final practice for the semester, which consisted of two short scrimmages. In between, an impromptu meeting was held by Gibbons in order to decide the fate of the team.
“Okay, raise your hand if you think there is greater than a 51 percent chance you will be playing next year,” he asked.
A sufficient number of people raise their hand to satisfy him.
He declares that the club will continue next year, which everyone is excited for. For the first time in IQA history, the IQA is releasing a regular season conference schedule. Belmont is guaranteed to play nine games in the southern region, including its rival TTU.
Before the meeting is adjourned and the second scrimmage begins, Francis encourages everyone to attend Wednsday’s Pancake Day together. She also encourages them to work out over the summer in order to be fit and ready for next year’s season.
They reluctantly agree to both. They then mount their PVC brooms, line up the rubber bludgers and deflated quaffle and wait for the last starting whistle of the semester.
Each team has seven players on the field at any given time. The seven consists of three chasers, two beaters, one seeker and one keeper. The three chasers are the primary offensive force of the team. Only they are allowed to move the lone quaffle (here a slightly deflated volleyball) down the field, and are able to score a point by sending it through any one of the three goalposts.
The beaters are able to knock the other players “off their brooms” using one of the three bludgers (dodgeballs). Once another player is hit with a bludger, they must dismount their broom and clear themselves by touching their own goal post.
The keeper is the goalie, and he is immune to the effects of bludgers while inside his own immediate goal area. However, the keeper is able to leave the goal area and serve as a fourth chaser.
While the other six players are confined to the pitch, the seeker pursues the Snitch. In lieu of a sentient, elusive, flying gold ball, the snitch is a third party player who attempts to evade capture by running about the surrounding area. He is caught when the seeker extricates the tennis ball-in-a-tube-sock hanging from the back of his shorts. Once they obtain the snitch and return to the field, the seeker effectively ends the match.
Substitutions are done actively, in-game. If a player drops or falls off of their broom, they must clear themselves at their own goal post in the same way they would if hit by a bludger.