“Transforming sportsmen into geeks and geeks into sportsmen”: the quidditch club takes off

Like a levitation spell, the Brown Club Quidditch team climbed the college rankings in their first competitive season, earning promotion to the First Division and finishing in the top 20 of the US Quidditch Cup in Salt Lake City. last weekend.

“We have proven that we belong with the titans of our division and our region,” said Andrew Steinberg ’22, a fighter for the team. From where we were to where we are, it’s really a Cinderella rags-to-riches story. I think teams across the country were supporting us and we made them very proud.

The Bears started the year as a Division Two team before being promoted, losing just one game all season to Division One team Harvard, which they went on to defeat. Last weekend during the national competition, the Bears won two games against Emerson College and the University of Illinois to break out of their group and enter the bracket game, where they were eliminated during their first game by the University of Michigan. The Bears’ stellar play earned them promotion to the Massachusetts Quidditch Conference First Division.

“I don’t know of any team in the first two years that Quidditch was a sport that, as a brand new team, did well in college Quidditch,” said team member Bradley Smith ’23. .

Team members cited diligent preparation and practice as reasons for their early success.

“We’re not the biggest players on the pitch, maybe we don’t have the most strength or speed, but we’re focused (and) we go into our games with a plan,” Smith said.

Part of that plan is to watch “hours and hours of tape,” Smith added. “On the Friday before each match, we will meet as a team and we will have a cinema session. We will spend an hour and a half determining who the team (opponent) players we are looking for are.

In addition to the team’s hard work, teammates also highlighted the contributions of one “star player” in particular: Steinberg, whose resume includes playing for the Boston Forge, a Major League Quidditch team, in plus being one of nine college players selected for the United States National Team Development Academy.

“He was a huge asset” to the team this season, Smith said. “And he worked very hard to distribute his skills and teach others how to improve their gameplay.”

“Towards the beginning of the year, … he was the one who did a lot, at least in the chase game, the movemaking,” said Ryan Silverman ’23. From now on, “every person is an essential part of the team. We’re spending a ton more than ever (and) everyone’s scoring…against just Steinberg. It was really nice to see this development.

Although the sport is often not taken seriously due to its roots in a fictional sport from the Harry Potter universe, Quidditch “requires the tenacity of rugby, the skill of basketball and the intellect of chess “Steinberg said. Now, “the sport has changed: Quidditch has over 40 teams across the country, there’s a US national team (and) there’s a World Cup with almost 30 countries. We have the receipts. … It’s a real sport.

“I was a varsity athlete in high school. I played track, I played basketball, football (and) I wrestled,” he added. “And it’s sport that brings it all together.”

In response to those who dismiss the sport because players have to stay “on a broomstick” with a pipe between their legs at all times, Steinberg asked, “Why in basketball do you have to dribble? … It’s a challenge. Running on a broom and catching a broom and throwing on a broom takes athleticism, it takes skill (and) it takes coordination.

While Steinberg was a seasoned athlete before getting involved in Quidditch, some players with no experience in competitive sports get involved due to their love of the Harry Potter franchise. Others, like Silverman, join them for exercise. But ultimately, they all come together to form a community uniquely situated between athletics and fandom.

This dynamic is captured by the phrase “Quidditch turns sportsmen into nerds and nerds into sportsmen”, a motto which Silverman, Smith and Steinberg have all recited.

“Some people will come because they’ve played another sport and want to try a new sport,” Silverman explained, “while other people will come because they’re Harry Potter fans and want to try it out or just want to do it. part of a nerdy community.

Just as the team strives to welcome players from all kinds of sporting backgrounds, gender equity and inclusion has become a key pillar of the Quidditch community, not just at Brown, but at the level. nationally, with many teams aiming to create a safe space for binary and transgender non-athletes, Silverman said.

Unlike other sports where strict gender divisions create debate around non-cisgender athletes, inclusivity is built into the structure of Quidditch. This is due to a rule referenced as “Title IX and 3/4”, which states that “you cannot have more than four players with the same gender identity on the field at any one time”, according to Silverman.

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“It’s a sport that shows me that we can all be on the same playing field together, and we can all thrive despite what some reactionary politicians across the country would say,” Steinberg said.

The importance of gender inclusion in developing Quidditch’s growing culture places the sport in a unique position with Harry Potter author JK Rowling. recent Twitter feeds expressing sentiments that run counter to the sport’s mission, Silverman said. According to Silverman, due to Rowling’s opinions and copyright issues with Warner Brothers, USQ and MLQ, the two main American Quidditch organizations, will change their names next year.

“I joined the sport not for the love of Harry Potter. What (is precious) to me is the sport. I have fun playing it. I like the people. I like being able to be part of it. of something that stands out for people,” Steinberg said. “I would rather have that than be tied to something that actively undermines that mission.”

“We will lose some of that fantasy, which is a shame,” he added. “But I think in the long term for what we’re trying to do, it’s important.”