Photo Credit Jan Garrison
August 7, 2014
Jake LeMay, normally a keeper for the Ball State Quidditch team, scores over Aarmonte Phillips '13 during the "Midwest all-stars" vs. staff game. Culver photo/Jan Garrison

Jake LeMay, normally a keeper for the Ball State Quidditch team, scores as he is hit by Aramonti Phillips ’13 during the “Midwest all-stars” vs. staff game. Trying to block the shot is David Mizhari ’13. Woodcraft counselor Ingrid Adams was a scorekeeper. Culver photo/Jan Garrison

Nearly an entire generation has grown up since Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone was published in 1997, but the game they played at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardy is finding plenty of new followers at Culver Summer Schools & Camps.

Muggle Quidditch – or simply Quidditch for the earthbound – was again a popular class selection at Woodcraft Camp, according to instructor Alex Scheer, who is also the Midwest regional director for U.S. Quidditch. Approximately 200 campers signed up for the classes, meaning Scheer was overseeing three or four classes every day for the entire six week

“The kids just love it,” he said. “It’s cool watching it grow. We’re looking for good things coming from the program.”

It’s cool watching it grow. We’re looking for good things coming from the program.

Quidditch was originally offered in the last trimester of camp in 2013. The projection was for one class but when 200 campers tried to sign up, Scheer said the program was expanded to accommodate as many people as possible.

Even though it has been seven years since the last book was published and three years since the last movie debuted, Scheer said most of the campers have some knowledge of the game. Some have heard about it from other campers, others have read the books, and others have watched the movies. No matter how they have heard about it, they want to know more “because it sounds like fun.”

Quidditch was first played in 2005 at Middlebury College. Since that time, it has grown to over 300 teams around the world. Teams consist of 21 players, with seven players (one Seeker, one Keeper, two Beaters, and three Chasers) on the 60-by-36-yard field at one time.

Scheer, a former football player, said he had his first exposure to Quidditch watching a game at Bowling Green State University. While he “kind of laughed at it” originally – especially about the players carrying a broom between their legs – he said he was also willing to give it a try.

“I fell in love with it,” he said. “It was a good way for me to fill that competitive void and it takes some athleticism to play.”

The games are co-ed, just like in the books, and a certain amount of contact is allowed. But size and strength alone will not win the game, he said. There some specific offensive strategies “and a slew of defenses” that can be used to offset any physical advantages. The basic rules are the players must keep the “broom” between their legs at all times, one hand must stay on the broom handle at all times, no tackling from behind, and no two-handed tackling. And while the movie characters wore capes, it didn’t take long for the rules people to eliminate them for the Muggles.

The stone of the Woodcraft Centennial Amphitheater lends a Hogwarts feel to the Quidditch class. Culver photo/Lou

The stone of the Woodcraft Centennial Amphitheater lends a Hogwarts feel to the Quidditch class. Ben Turner ’14 is one of the instructors. Culver photo/Lou Stejskal

The chasers score goals worth 10 points each with a volleyball called the quaffle. They advance the ball down the field by running with it, passing it to teammates, or kicking it. The keeper defends the three goal hoops. The beaters use dodgeballs called 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’s seeker tries to catch the snitch. The snitch is actually 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 snitch is worth 30 points and its capture ends the game.

When Scheer asked a group of players from teams around the Midwest to come to Culver for an exhibition match against members of the staff, it was evident that understanding the finer points of the game were important. The “Midwest all-stars” led the staff by 120 points before the snitch was captured by the Midwest’s seeker to end the game.

The game was played on Oliver Field and the Woodcrafters cheered on their counselors. But, like basketball, Scheer said the Midwest players utilized the “Baylor defense,” which slows down the opposition’s attacking players and creates “a lot of fast break opportunities.” Like many team sports, the best offense often is a good defense.

Scheer said games can last from 18 minutes to up to an hour, depending on the competitiveness. The teams play year-round. He has played in snow, sleet, rain, and summer heat. His club team played a 40-game schedule last year, then he personally played in 20 other events across the country.

If the popularity continues to grow at Culver, Scheer said he would like to set up a tournament for Woodcrafters who have taken the Quidditch classes. And he only sees an upward trend. The U.S. Quidditch website is receiving several inquiries from middle school students wanting to start teams. “And I know a lot of those are coming from Culver kids who took the class,” he said. “We’re fueling that fire.”

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