Brains show their brawn in Roseville quidditch tournament

‘Harry Potter’ sport draws college bookworms, but athleticism also is on display in World Cup qualifier
By: Trevor Horn/Special to Gold Country News Service
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ROSEVILLE — Descending on Maidu Park last weekend were not your everyday bookworms.

Playing the now real-life sport of quidditch, which derives from the ever-popular book and movie series “Harry Potter,” the Roseville park played host to Western Cup IV, vying for spots in Quidditch World Cup VI on April 13-14 in Kissimmee, Fla.

Tweaked for non-flying humans, players still use brooms and are required to keep them between their legs while running across a hockey rink-like field.

The sport resembles lacrosse, rugby and a bit of polo — sans water or horses.

With around 200 players on hand from teams in the western United States and British Columbia and nearly the same amount of spectators,  creator and now CEO of the International Quidditch Association Alex Benepe envisioned the sport becoming popular, but even this exceeds his initial expectations.

“From the beginning, we always thought quidditch would be successful because of the inherent quality of the game, how fun it is to play and how exciting it is from a strategic and sports perspective,” Benepe said. “And also how inclusive it is, being a coed sport. I don’t think I could have imagined to the extent that it has grown.”

All teams are coed, and most players are college-aged students. Seven of the 18 teams were affiliated with a club or intramural program at universities up and down the west coast, including Cal, Stanford, USC and tournament-champion UCLA.

Dan Hanson of tournament runner-up The Lost Boys of Lomita, a non-university team, started playing quidditch in 2009 as a student at Emerson College in Boston. The wool isn’t drawn over Hanson’s eyes about the quirkiness of the sport.

“There are three things that make quidditch players really awesome people: They are competitive, they are nerdy, and they just have no shame,” he said. “(We) are willing to run around with broomsticks between our legs while everyone else is making fun of us. So we know we are bold, confident, awesome people.”

Like Hanson, Brandon Scapa, a junior at UCLA and member of UCLA Quidditch, said he was initially interested because of his fondness of the books, but the game is more about competition than Potter.

“Before I started playing, I was (a fan),” Scapa said. “I read all of the books, but once I started playing, I think the Harry Potter aspect has taken some of the respect we should be given as athletes and players. So since then I have stopped liking Harry Potter, actually.”

Hanson agrees the sport has taken on a life beyond the novelty of its origin.

“It is better than intramural whiffle ball, when we were playing against other dorks,” Hanson said. “We are playing against other colleges at the highest stakes.”

Del Campo High School sophomore Marissa Enriquez, 15, came out Saturday to see for herself what the sport would look like away from the pages and big screen.

“I’ve read all of the Harry Potter books, and I’ve seen all of the movies and just thought it would be cool to come and watch,” Enriquez said. “I didn’t know it was a college sport, so it’s pretty cool.”

Hanson said he enjoyed his time in Roseville and hopes the event will stay for multiple years to build a local fan base.

Said Hanson, “Once you start learning the players … it makes a really big difference.”




At Maidu Park in Roseville

Champion: UCLA Quidditch. Runner-up: The Lost Boys (Lomita). Qualifiers for Quidditch World Cup VI (April 13-14 in Kissimmee, Fla.): Silicon Valley Skrewts, USC Quidditch, NAU Narwhals, Arizona State Sun Devils.