It’s a cold fall morning in Rochester, New York. The NYU Thunder quidditch team is deadlocked in a battle with the Quidditch Club of Boston — a semi-professional organization in Massachusetts dedicated to the preservation of the wizarding sport. Quaffles wizz. Bludgers whip. It’s the best rivalry you’ll find, save for Gryffindor and Slytherin.
“It’s one of the most intense games I’ve ever played,” freshman chaser Anshuman Sinha said. “Your emotions are running high the entire time.”
Despite a loss to QCB, the Thunder held their heads high in the regional tournament, rebounding to win their consolation match and secure a spot in the national tournament in Florida this winter.
Made popular by JK Rowling’s Harry Potter series, the game of quidditch has become a presence on college campuses and semi-professional leagues across the nation, even founding a global headquarters in Cambridge, United Kingdom. Since the game’s inception in the muggle world, NYU has become one of the nation’s top teams and intends to keep growing as a sport within the university community.
“We’re now almost fully supported by NYU administration,” senior captain Kyle Carey said. “They financially back us and I can tell they’re rooting for us to win.”
With six players deployed on the field at any given time, the game mirrors the magical version quite closely, with the obvious exception of flying broomsticks.
“Despite [no flying], it’s really similar,” Sinha said. “It’s the same number of players, the same types of equipment and the same level of competition.”
Gameplay itself is also similar to that in Harry Potter. Chasers run back and forth the field attempting to score goals by throwing a ball through any of the three large hoops past the keeper while dodging beaters. Players can tackle each other for the ball. However, the players nearly all agree when they say that the most interesting part of the game is catching the golden snitch. In the context of college quidditch, the snitch is a converted wrestler or track runner who can do whatever necessary — including tackling, pushing, dodging or just flat out running —to defend a tennis ball in a yellow sock hanging from his or her shorts. Games are violent and can last for hours, or until the snitch is finally caught.
“The snitch comes on after 18 minutes, and then [the game] goes until someone catches it,” Carey said. “After that, it’s sudden death, and sometimes it turns into a bloodbath between the two seekers and the snitch.”
Instead of the 150 points that Harry often received for Gryffindor, the snitch is only worth 30 in college quidditch, making chasers like Sinha all the more important. Sinha, like a number of other players, didn’t intend to join the team when he enrolled at NYU, but he was convinced by a pitch from the captains who manned the sport’s booth at club fest in September.
“I joined the team thinking it was a gag club,” Sinha said. “But now it’s the club that takes up the most of my time, and it truly does evoke the same intense competitiveness that Harry Potter Quidditch games do.”
Sinha also says that recruiting one player can form a chain reaction. Friends invite friends, so much so that the team had to be split into varsity and JV. Practicing twice a week at East River Park, the team has formed a close bond, similarly to many other athletic teams on campus.
“It’s only been a couple of months, but it already feels like family,” Sinha said. “We’ve bonded over our long road trips [to Philadelphia and Rochester], and we’re as close as any other group on campus.”
As the team prepares for a long season that will culminate at the national tournament in April, Sinha and Carey acknowledge that there is a lot of room for improvement. The Thunder’s success in the past, though, sets a precedent that winning Nationals is not a goal as outlandish as the world of magic their sport was born from.
Email Jash Babla at [email protected]