Quidditch team begins spring practices, shares love for ‘Harry Potter’ with campus

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Junior zoology major Jeffery Ritter takes part in beater drills during Quidditch practice at the Centennial Fields on Tuesday, March 1, 2016.

Benjamin VanHoose Entertainment Reporter

To the average passerby walking near Centennial Fields on Tuesday, Thursday and Friday afternoons, the sight of students straddling PVC pipes and hurling dodge balls at each other may be enough to detour another route to class. Confused onlookers need only ask the energetic group between plays to discover they are the one — and only — Quidditch team on campus.

Kent State’s unofficial Quidditch squad began its spring practices last Tuesday, with students from various majors meeting to share their fandom and competitive side with like-minded classmates.

“I was upset when I found out we didn’t have a Quidditch team on campus and wanted to do as much as I could to get it started,” said Jeffery Ritter, a sophomore zoology major and team captain. “We like to geek-out a lot, which is always fun.”

For those unfamiliar with the sport, Quidditch was first introduced in 1997 with the first installment in the now-famous “Harry Potter” series written by J.K. Rowling. In the books and movies, witches and wizards fly on broomsticks as chasers, throw quaffles through hoops guarded by keepers, beaters aim bludgers at opponents and seekers hunt the elusive golden snitch.

But if that all sounds like gibberish, the real life version is much easier to comprehend.

As muggles (non-magic folk), members of the team make do with what equipment they have access to. PVC pipes stand in for broomsticks, slightly-deflated dodge balls act as bludgers and a volleyball serves as the quaffle. A tennis ball stored in a sock fastened to the back of a runner’s pants represents the snitch.

“Obviously it’s pretty hard to do it without the magic part,” said Angela Molina, a freshman psychology major and treasurer of the team. “I think we have a pretty good representation, though.”

Quidditch isn’t exclusive to Kent State’s main campus: The fictitious sport has leapt off the page to become one of the fastest growing sports in the world.

America has an official governing body called US Quidditch, complete with a full-time staff that organizes events and advocates for co-ed competition. There are 173 teams registered across the country. Though Kent State’s team isn’t officially registered with US Quidditch, several teams in Ohio are, including ones in Toledo, Wooster and Chardon.

For now, the Quidditch team isn’t even registered as an official Kent State student organization.

“We haven’t had enough commitment from enough people yet to apply for club sport status,” Ritter said.

Since there aren’t enough players to arrange full team-on-team matches, practices generally consist of mini games that resemble monkey-in-the-middle, tag and dodge ball with Quidditch rules and themes.

“We honestly have way too much fun playing the mini games,” Ritter said. “It’s just a blast.”

The team is currently courting a number of potential faculty advisors and hopes to attract more students by next semester so they can become legitimized as a university club.

“When I first joined I was disappointed because there were so few people, but we’re slowly getting there,” said Suzanne Mead, sophomore political science major and vice president of the team. “I’m excited to help it continue to grow more.” 

Primary focus for recruitment: word of mouth. Aside from a Facebook page with postings of practice times, the only way the team has been able to accumulate new players is through recommendations to friends.

They also field questions from curious strangers.

“Reactions are mostly that they are interested and surprised there is even a team,” Molina said.

Though not all responses have been positive but Mead recognizes how ridiculous Quidditch practices can look to outsiders and owns her unabashed obsession with “Harry Potter.” 

“Some laugh at how much of a nerd I am — but that’s just because I am a huge nerd,” Mead said. “(‘Harry Potter’) has shaped my life and whenever something goes wrong with my day, I know I can retreat to that world and everything will be okay.”

The Quidditch team isn’t the only group on campus putting their love for “Harry Potter” to good use. Lumos Flashes is Kent State’s chapter of the Harry Potter Alliance, a non-profit organization dedicated to spreading literacy and correcting social injustices through the power of fan communities.

“I wanted to use my passions to raise awareness and educate others on different social injustices that we experience,” said Carolyn Matovina, a senior special education major and president of Lumos Flashes. “To me, ‘Harry Potter’ is an entire community where differences are accepted and you can be yourself.”

Lumos Flashes collected $270 last semester to donate to This Star Won’t Go Out, a charity that helps families of children with cancer. This semester, it will focus on a book drive to contribute to Accio Books, a campaign to collect and distribute reading materials all around the world.

“I’ve learned that when people band together to do good, they’re unstoppable,” said Jessica Clemons, a junior public health major and historian for Lumos Flashes. “It’s amazing to be part of something as special as this.”

Kent State’s connection to “Harry Potter” doesn’t end there: An English department course titled “Literature for Young Adults” has been known to use the book series in its lesson plans, and a then-Kent State student earned the title of “World’s Biggest Harry Potter Fan” in the 2013 edition of “The Guinness Book of World Records.”

But why exactly is love for “Harry Potter” so fervent on Kent State’s campus compared to other franchises? 

“It’s one of those things that can be enjoyed by any person,” Molina said. “It will be passed down, generation to generation, forever.”

Benjamin VanHoose is an entertainment reporter for the Kent Stater. Contact him at [email protected]