If you have ever passed by Joss Beach on a Wednesday, Friday or Sunday afternoon, you may have run across a motley crew of broom-and-ball-wielding Vassarites throwing balls through mounted hoops, one of them dressed in yellow with a tennis ball stuck to their posterior. That dynamic group would be our very own Quidditch team—the Butterbeer Broooers.
I sat down during one of their Thursday bedtime readings of “Harry Potter” in Raymond to learn more about the sport of Quidditch and their student org.
For people like me, whose Harry Potter knowledge has been deteriorating in a dusty corner of their brain, fear not—members of the org provided a quick Quidditch rundown. Captain Lestra Atlas ’19 explained, “There are five positions: beater, chaser, keeper, seeker and snitch. Chasers handle the quaffle, a scoring ball, that gets 10 points if it goes in a hoop.” Shannon Russo ’20 continued, “Beaters are kind of playing dodgeball, and if you get hit by their bludger, you are temporarily out. A keeper is kind of like a goalie, but they have some special rules and are more offensive.” Peter Markotsis ’21 took the cake with his explanation of the famous snitch: “The snitch is a person who’s dressed in yellow with a tennis ball attached to them. The seekers will have to basically grapple with them and try to grab and pull off the ball. Once that ball is caught, the game is done, and you get 30 points.”
It wouldn’t surprise members of the Quidditch team if Vassar students had never heard of this competitive sport before coming to Vassar. Russo illuminated Vassar’s integral role in the Quidditch realm, saying, “[Vassar was] actually the second Quidditch team to ever exist. We played in the first World Cup between us and Middlebury. We also played the first international Quidditch tournament against the University of Vaasa from Finland. We’ve got a long past and [have] existed for 12 years, so Lestra is part of the 12th generation of captains.”
Unsurprisingly, the Harry Potter series is a major component of the Butterbeer Broooers’ identity and it manifests itself in non-Quidditch ways. Markotsis expressed his love for these other activities: “The best night of the week is Thursday night, when we get together and we just read Harry Potter together. Someone will narrate out loud. Everyone will have a book or a pdf copy, and whenever a character shows up in the books, people will just jump in and get to voice that character for the duration of the chapter we’re reading. It’s just really awesome. It’s just a way to kind of relax and have fun as a team.”
Russo added, “We do that for 24 hours straight in the second semester. We turned that into a fundraiser, which [brings in] a lot of money. [U]ltimately, at the end of the day, we’re a sports organization, but we’re also a social organization.” Atlas chimed in, “We do board night parties, and—how could I forget?—we organize a Yule Ball every year as well.”
What about the athletic aspect of Quidditch? For Margaret Bigler ’22, who has a background in gymnastics, Quidditch belongs to the same category as conventional team and ball sports. She shared, “For me, the biggest difference between Quidditch versus gymnastics is just the balls. It’s throwing, catching, hand-eye coordination, all that stuff that I never had to worry about before.”
Bigler elaborated, “Also, communication and working with other players on a team is very different. Every game is different. Whereas in gymnastics, the goal is to do the same exact thing every time, and to make it as perfect as you can. In Quidditch, you have to react to what’s going on in real time. So it’s just a different mindset.”
Russo expanded upon Quidditch’s other crucial athletic elements of physicality and strategy, saying, “[Quidditch is] serious. You have to take it seriously. There is a risk of injury because it’s a full-contact sport. We recently had one of the rugby coaches come in and teach us how to tackle and get tackled safely, so we have to take it seriously.”
She added, “The second I started playing [Quidditch], I fell in love with it. It’s not just a game about physical ability, it’s a lot about strategy. Especially if you’re a beater, it’s less about scoring and running down the field really fast. It’s more about…how can I get a ball back, who should I be throwing this ball at, and who’s the best person to try to block right now.”
A unique blend of Harry Potter and conventional sport, Quidditch is multi-dimensional and attracts different people for a variety of reasons. Markotsis put it this way: “For a lot of us, Harry Potter is this wonderful world we got to explore as children and really connected with. And then we hear about the sport in college, and we don’t quite know what it’s about yet, but we’re like, oh, it’s Harry Potter. It’s gonna be an awesome experience. And then we go.”
Students like Markotsis usually ended up enjoying the sport even without the Harry Potter aspects of it. Quidditch can be a game for everyone.