Sometimes joining a new community can open up new, magical worlds that you never imagined were possible. This was Quentin Turner’s experience when he gained a new set of friends, teammates and community through Muggle Quidditch.
It begins in 2010, during the spring of my third year in college at Eastern Michigan University. Over the holiday break, I was visiting with one of my best friends who just returned home to Detroit from his East Coast liberal arts school. He told me that he had begun playing a weird sport that was getting big in the region called Muggle Quidditch.
Based on the game with a similar name from the Harry Potter franchise, Muggle Quidditch involves two teams of seven facing off on an ovular field and attempting to score points on the other team’s goal. Much like the fantasy sport, the goals are three hoops of assorted sizes, all positions (Chaser, Beater, Keeper, Seeker) are accounted for and all players must play while straddling brooms.
My initial reaction was highly skeptical.
While my friend and I were certainly prone to nerdy pursuits, this seemed like a step too far. However, the more he explained the set up. the more intrigued (and slightly envious) I became. By the end of the winter I was determined to bring this East Coast sensation to the mitten.
Upon returning to school, I immediately visited to our student life office to start an intermural Quidditch team. I was told that I would need a name and at least eight people to sign the charter and pay a small registration fee.
I was alone in my desire to run around a grassy field on a broom.
As luck would have it, the secretary mentioned that earlier the same day there was another request made to start a Quidditch team by the president of the Harry Potter Book Club, which until that moment, I didn’t even know existed on campus.
I got her information and we met up with seven other members of the book club. We all agreed to sign the charter and pay the fee. Thus, the Eastern Michigan Flying Squirrels Quidditch team was born. We were one of the first collegiate Quidditch teams formed in the state of Michigan. Our very first game was versus Miami University of Ohio. It was exactly what one would imagine a field of questionably athletic nerds running on brooms might look like. Lots of tripping and capes might have been involved. Despite this, we had the time of our lives!
Since then, a dozen more collegiate and community Quidditch teams have popped up around Michigan and over a hundred throughout the world. There is even an international regulatory organization that hosts a literal World Cup once a year. Whether attracted to the lore of the Harry Potter novels, the novelty of a quirky sport or a little of both, hundreds of people have mounted their Firebolt brooms and given their blood, sweat and tears to this game.
The first time I attended a World Cup with my team was what really made me feel like I was a part of something much bigger. It was hosted in a park in New York City. Dozens of teams from as far away as New Zealand were in attendance. The Flying Squirrels played three hard games in the qualifying rounds. While we didn’t move on, I’ll never forget the bright lights and the roar of the crowd during our last game of the day. Hearing the friends we made in New York and the supporters from home cheer us on while we competed at an international level was truly amazing. Once we were knocked out of the tournament, we cheered just as hard.
Being a part of such a passionate and weird community of athletes, bookworms and misfits was one of the best decisions of my college career. My teammates became some of my best friends and we supported each other not just on the field but off the field too. Throughout all the tough classes, personal losses, new relationships and finding a life post-graduation we were there for each other. It taught me about managing relationships, working together to a common goal and releasing my inhibitions and letting myself have fun. These are all lessons I carry with me today and I will bring to other communities I become a part of.
*Image CC Quentin Turner