Quidditch magic at GMU

Jby Holly Hobbs
Fairfax County Times
Thursday, November 11, 2010

Every now and then, a few enthusiastic students at George Mason University leave their books behind, hop on brooms and hurl Quaffles and Bludgers in their quest for the Snitch.

The game is Quidditch, a sport made popular by the Harry Potter series, which boasts more than 400 college and 300 high school teams nationwide, according to the International Quidditch Association, a group promoting the formation of teams across the United States.

That includes Fairfax County, where George Mason University's Quidditch Club is leading efforts to get the sport off the ground.

"Within the first day of having our Facebook account, we had 50 members," said sophomore Chloe Kingsley-Burt, 19, co-founder of the club.

Quidditch is a semi-contact sport (played on brooms, naturally) that combines elements of basketball, in which players try to throw a Quaffle ball through three vertical hoops to score 10 points; dodgeball, in which players try to knock out opponents with Bludger balls; and a scavenger hunt, in which a player from each team seeks the Golden Snitch, resulting in a gain of 150 points. When the Snitch is caught, the game ends.

In the books and movies, Harry Potter and his schoolmates soar above the stadium crowd, competing on their flying broomsticks. "Muggle Quidditch" - the version for those without magic powers - is played at ground level.

Instead of a winged, Golden Snitch darting around the field, propelled by magic, college students dress a fellow student in yellow or gold. The runner darts around campus, propelled by a Seeker from each team who tries to become the first to capture a yellow flag hanging from the Snitch's waist.

At Mason, players are divided into four teams, based on the four student houses at the boarding school for magical children that Harry Potter attends, Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry: Gryffindor, Hufflepuff, Ravenclaw and Slytherin.

Kingsley-Burt captains the Ravenclaw team.

She and fellow sophomore Katie Dever, who captains the Hufflepuff team, began plans for GMU Quidditch during the first week of their freshman year.

"It took a long time to get this going . . . about eight months," Dever said. Plans to form a league at GMU were sidelined because administrative staff from the school's student activities office thought the sport had too much potential for injury.

Videos of Quidditch posted on the club's Facebook page looked jarring and violent, she said, noting that students were shown tripping, stumbling and falling off their brooms. Another obstacle for Mason Quidditch remains finding a place to play and getting equipment.

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