Casting a Spell Over Sports Fans

This year, KHC features weekly posts related to the Smithsonian Institution traveling exhibition Hometown Teams, currently touring Kansas.

The University of Kansas is home to a nationally competitive Quidditch team.  Image Courtesy Jane Wallerstedt.

The University of Kansas is home to a nationally competitive Quidditch team. Image Courtesy Jane Wallerstedt.

In Kansas, the “Big 3” sports still reign supreme. But what if your taste in sports runs a little more…magical?

If you live in Lawrence, you’re in luck. The college town, which revels in its outside-the-box reputation, is home to Kansas Quidditch, a nationally competitive team organized through KU.

The sport of choice in the wizarding world created by Harry Potter author J. K. Rowling, Quidditch is just one of the unconventional sports making a name for itself in Lawrence.

“The fact that weird or unusual sports thrive in Lawrence is just another example of how locals are open to introducing a little bit of the unknown into their lives,” said Abby Magariel, Watkins Museum of History’s Hometown Teams Partner Site Project Director.

2014-2015 Kansas Quidditch captain Max Wallerstedt agrees the unconventional aspect is a draw.

“It’s an extracurricular activity that isn’t taken too seriously, by some, where everyone who wants to experience can come and not feel pressured like they might be by more traditional sports,” Wallerstedt said.

In Rowling’s series, Quidditch is played in flight, with players zipping through the air on broomsticks.

Here in the Muggle (non-magical) world, players can’t fly. But all seven players do have to keep a broomstick between their legs at all times, adding a degree of difficulty to the game.

Chasers attempt to score goals on the opposing team’s goaltender, or Keeper, while avoiding the Bludgers (dodgeballs) thrown at them by Beaters. And the Seeker—only one per team—tries to capture the Golden Snitch. In the books, the Snitch is a small, winged ball worth 300 points to the team that captures it; in real life, it’s a sock with a tennis ball inside it that hangs from a runner’s waistband. Capturing the Snitch ends the game and usually means victory.

Nearly a decade after the last Harry Potter novel was published, real-life Quidditch continues to gain in popularity across the world. So whether you’re a Potterhead dreaming of the day an owl drops off your Hogwarts acceptance letter or just looking for a different way to explore your athletic side, Lawrence has you covered.

For more information on the Watkins Museum’s planned activities, visit watkinsmuseum.org.