Rice students are no strangers to unusual sports — just ask one of them what 'beer golf' is. So it should came as no surprise that the university is now home to its first-ever quidditch team.
Yes, quidditch, as in the sport invented by J.K. Rowling and played by Harry Potter and his wizard friends. But don't let the fact that quidditch comes from the world of fiction fool you — players say this is a sport to be taken seriously.
"A considerable number of athletes say 'Yeah, right, I'm going to play a made-up sport,'" says Rice Quidditch Club president Sophie Bonifaz. "As soon as they get on the field they see how challenging it is."
Rice approved quidditch as an intramural sport in April 2011, and the team starting practicing in September.
"A considerable number of athletes say 'Yeah, right, I'm going to play a made-up sport,' " Bonifaz says. "As soon as they get on the field they see how challenging it is."
As in the books, quidditch teams are made up of several positions: three chasers, two beaters, a keeper (or goalie) and a seeker. Chasers catch and throw a deflated volleyball known as a "quaffle," with the goal of throwing it through a large hoop defended by the keeper. Beaters throw dodgeballs (or "blodgers") at other team members in an attempt to temporarily take them out of the game. (When hit by a blodger, a player must drop any ball they are carrying and run back to tag their hoop before returning to the game.)
The seeker is tasked with chasing and capturing the snitch, a tennis ball carried on the waistband of a neutral player whose sole job is to evade the seekers of both teams. Each player (minus the snitch) fields their position while holding onto a broomstick between their legs at all times.
Bonifaz says the different aspects of quidditch gives it commonalities with a wide range of sports. The passing game is similar to lacrosse, basketball or soccer, with elements of dodgeball, baseball (Bonifaz says baseball players make great beaters), and even rugby, since quidditch is a full-contact sport.
"At first people are interested because it sounds unusual . . . [but] there's lots of running, lots of cardio," Bonifaz says.
The first Rice quidditch practice tournament was held on Jan. 28, with Rice facing off against quidditch teams from Baylor, LSU and Texas A&M. Rice didn't win any games, but Bonifaz says the team played well and impressed LSU and A&M, both of which are ranked among the Top 10 college quidditch teams in the United States.
(In case you were wondering, the International Quidditch Association lists 529 quidditch teams in the country and more than 1,000 in the world.)
The next intercollegiate competition for Rice quidditch is the Mardi Gras Carnival Cup, held on Feb. 18 at LSU and featuring more than 30 quidditch teams from across the country.