Chasers Tracy Dalton and Brett Marcus vye for the quaffle as Kiersten Marsh looks for the assist Monday afternoon at Science Hill High School's quidditch team practice. (Nathan Baker / Johnson City Press)
The magical sport of quidditch is set to take off at the local high school.
Adapted from the pages of J.K. Rowling’s wildly popular “Harry Potter” series, the sport is said to be a mix of rugby, soccer, dodgeball and tag, but is all fun for the dozen or so members of Science Hill High School’s Quidditch Club.
“It’s a sport, but it’s not really organized, so I guess it’s good if you like running around, but aren’t as enthused about all the rules and referees,” sophomore Tracy Dalton said Monday afternoon on the field behind the school the team uses as a practice pitch.
For those not familiar with the fantasy novels, however, the gameplay can be a bit confusing.
The sport uses three balls, one oddly shaped almost-sphere called a quaffle and two standard red rubber dodgeballs called bludgers.
There are also four main player positions, usually seven on each team: chasers, who attempt to throw the quaffle through hoop goals at either end of the field; keepers, who guard the goal from the chasers; beaters, who try to hit opposing players with the bludgers and block their own team members from being hit by the bludgers; and seekers, who try to snatch the snitch — a tennis ball in a sock — from the waistband of a player who has been designated as the snitch.
Although they can’t fly, players are required to tuck broomsticks between their legs at all times during gameplay, which leaves only one free arm and adds to the difficulty of play.
The muggle, or non-magical, version of the fictional game was first developed by students at Middlebury College in Vermont in 2005.
Since then, it has spread to colleges and high schools across the country, played by students who grew up reading the books and watching the movies.
“Harry Potter’s a big part of it,” Science Hill junior Kiersten Marsh said. “It’s really fun just playing the game from the movie — seeing it in movies and reading the books and then actually living that out. Obviously, we don’t have any magic, but trying to re-enact it the best we can is cool.”
Maybe it was wizardry, but East Tennessee State University student and Quidditch Club President Patricia Kramer quips that the college’s quidditch team was easier to get aloft than its rebooted football program.
ETSU’s team has 28 members and actively participates in division tournaments each year against teams from other colleges with established programs.
One of the university’s quidditch rivals is Appalachian State University, whose Sitherinesqe members, Kramer said, aren’t against pulling some dirty tricks.
“We’ve had problems in the past,” she said of the Boone, N.C., team. “But two tournaments ago, we extended our hands to them, and said there were no bad feelings.”
At the college level, the game is played full-contact, which leaves a lot of players wishing for a real bottle of Skele-Gro, for sure.
“It’s pretty dangerous,” Kramer said. “There have been people who are severely injured when they’re hit in the head.”
Players can wear optional helmets, according to the International Quidditch Association’s official rulebook, but most players choose not to, she said.
The risk of injury is one of the reasons that ETSU’s team can’t face off against Science Hill’s, the high school club’s sponsor, Jessica Schiwitz said, which leaves the younger class waiting for another nearby school to establish a team and provide opponents.
“Last year, we went to Willow Springs Park and held some pickup games,” Dalton said. “There were a lot of people there who were interested in what we were doing and wanted to join in.”
Like any other high school sport, the quidditch team is in need of equipment, Schiwitz, a government and economics teacher, said.
“There isn’t a lot of specialized equipment, but the brooms do take a beating,” she said. “So we’re trying to sell some team T-shirts to raise some money for new brooms and to help us pay for the community service project that we’re required to do as an established club.”
Interested sports or wizarding fans can visit www.booster.com/sciencehillhighschool to purchase a shirt.