MM tries Quidditch – the sport where inclusivity and gender fluidity is at the heart of the game

Harry Potter author J.K Rowling declared that Manchester was the birthplace of Quidditch on Twitter last year.

So with that in mind, MM went to the University of Manchester recently to try out the sport which is developing both in the city and the wider UK.

The sport has a real reputation for being completely inclusive and on arrival, everyone was given a sticker for their name and the pronouns they felt comfortable with.

Larissa Taylor, who was the Inclusion Officer for UoM Quidditch during the 2017/18 season, said it was to make sure everyone taking part was comfortable.

She added: “Everything is very fluid and a lot of people here would say they are only ‘out’ to us and not to their family or close friends because this is very much a place you can come and feel like you can be yourself and no one will judge you for that.”

During the session, which was led by team captain Tua Karling, the rules of Quidditch were explained and several demonstrations on how the sport is played were given.

Each team has seven players on the pitch at one time; these are made up of three Chasers, two Beaters, one Seeker and a Keeper (substitutions are unlimited within Quidditch). Each position has a different role on the field of play:

Chasers aim to score goals with the Quaffle by throwing or kicking it through the hoops. Each goal is worth 10 points. Chasers move the ball down the field by running with it, passing it to teammates, or kicking it.

Two Beaters use the Bludgers to disrupt the flow of the game by “knocking out” other players. Any player hit by a Bludger is out of play until they touch their own goals.

Each team also has a Seeker who tries to catch the Snitch. The Snitch is a ball attached to the waistband of the Snitch runner; a neutral athlete in a yellow uniform who uses any means to avoid capture.

The Keeper’s role is to guard the hoops and stop the Chasers from scoring with the Quaffle.

All players must play holding a ‘broomstick’; a stick which can be held by the hand or between the thighs and must not touch the ground.

The different balls used within a game of Quidditch are as follows:

* There are three Bludgers on the field of play; these are dodge-balls used by Beaters to set back other players. When a player is hit with a Bludger, they must drop any ball they are holding and touch their own goalposts before re-entering play.

* The Quaffle is a volleyball used to score goals. Chasers can also use the Quaffle to block incoming Bludgers.

* The Snitch is a neutral athlete dressed in yellow with a Velcro tail attached to their shorts. They are released onto the field on the 18th minute and must evade capture. Once one of the Seekers captures their tail, the game is over and the team that obtains the Snitch is awarded 30 points. If the score is tied after the Snitch catch, the game proceeds into overtime.

Team captain Tua, who is beginning her third season as a UoM Quidditch player, said that she chose to play Quidditch because it was so welcoming.

She said: “It seemed very interesting and new and I came to the ‘give it a go’ and it was really fun and different. The thing that got me to stay was the community, as compared to any other sports societies I’ve been to, it’s very welcoming to people from different backgrounds and different sports experiences.”

Ms Karling, who this summer represented team Finland at the Quidditch World Cup, believes  the sport has great potential in the UK.

“I think it has enormous potential in the UK, because there are essentially three different games within the game of Quidditch so it’s very inclusive of different abilities.

“It can become a really big nation-wide sport because it’s so interesting and different from everything else, so even people who have played other sports for years will find it interesting because it’s such a tactical sport.”

The game of Quidditch has a specific gender rule in place where a team may not have more than four players who identify as the same gender on the pitch at the same time.

Referencing the gender rule, Larissa Taylor stated: “I find this is very much a sport for trans and non-binary people who can come and play with people of all genders if they don’t feel comfortable going to ‘men’s or women’s sport; this is the sport where they can play and feel validated in themselves and their identity.”

Following the end of their Fresher’s Session, the University of Manchester Quidditch team had their first ‘social’ of the 2018/19 season at a pub where board games were played so that the option of drinking alcohol was there but by no means compulsory.

A fitting ‘social’ for a sport and team that wants everyone to feel comfortable.

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