Don’t get me wrong. I laughed at first. Quidditch? In the real world? Ha that’s ridiculous. But, as a die hard Harry Potter fan, I had to check it out.
I was waiting for a bit of an easy ride, it wouldn’t be that hard, there wouldn’t be injuries or anything like that. It was just a laugh, right?
Oh I am laughing now.
I was first introduced during freshers fayre. I knew it was a thing at the University of Reading, having sought out the information about the Harry Potter society and quidditch team before starting, so I made a beeline for where I knew the demo was going to be. I stood there and watched unknown students – who unbeknownst to me would soon become some of my best friends – running around with a pvc pipe between their legs. They were throwing dodge balls and volleyballs through hula hoops on poles and trying to catch a sock that was tucked into someone’s shorts with a tennis ball inside.
It baffled me. I was instantly hooked. It was a sport that was inclusive, there were clauses in the rulebook to include people of all genders, it allowed everyone chance to take part. Even if I was too unfit to play (by this point I realised there was more running than I had previously thought and I was still sporting an injury from years previous that had stopped me taking part in sports properly), I had to be involved somehow.
I was quickly roped into trying it out. They were so good at encouraging and, even when I explained my injury and that I was wearing a tight compression top for my chest, they were keen to get me involved. We started with non-contact, saving any injuries for when we knew how to deal with falling and everything, and I was having a blast. It was such a new exciting experience I had to go back at the weekend for tryouts.
Over the weeks I slowly became used to running with this broom between my legs and not squishing anything, I soon learnt I was best in goal – even though initially I had pegged myself as a beater – and came to love my position.
I was into it. I liked it. But I didn’t know my team that well and I didn’t know a lot about quidditch as a community, only rumours in anticipation of the upcoming British Quidditch Cup, or BQC as it was shortened to. We were all pumped for the tournament, but I don’t think any of us freshers really knew what we had in store when we headed to Oxford that morning.
The atmosphere when we arrived was electric. People from all over the country were there, even Scottish, Irish and Welsh teams had shown, and I had thought I did well for getting up so early in Reading! It seemed like utter madness. The sort of madness I adored.
Our first game was against Southampton. Now, the team has come on leaps and bounds, but even then the team was absolutely amazing. I didn’t play a lot of the first game, likely too frightened having watched a teammate basically flipped by one of the most athletic players on the pitch. But I found myself drawn in. We quickly learnt as a team that we had been told a white lie, we couldn’t win our bracket – we didn’t know enough then and our inexperience largely hindered us – but we didn’t care. Soon we were seen as one of the most friendly teams for the weekend, we started singalongs, gelled well with each other and our fellow teams. We began cheering on the underdogs of each game, giving them the support and encouragement they were lacking by falling behind. ‘Readby’ formed an aliance, Reading and Derby being the two at the bottom of the tournament we all got on well.
It was utterly phenomenal. We played our hearts out, sure, we came away with zero wins but in terms of the team we were doing well. We were just that, a team. I felt fully part of the Reading Rocs.
The next few months we had various tournaments and games, and slowly but surely we grew and improved as a team. We weren’t the top, far from it, but we were always known for bringing fun to the games. We won a few matches, our snitch catch game was fantastic, and we had loads of fun. That’s why I started in the first place.
More than just having fun though, my team became another family to me. I have some of the best friends I’ve ever had through quidditch, I have struggled a lot at university and honestly quidditch is one of the only things that has kept me going. Some of my darkest days were made better by friends, and I wouldn’t change it for the world.
This weekend we are off to Nottingham for the second BQC. It is going to be great, everyone is hyped for it, people have been training harder than ever before in a bid to show they have a great team. There are both new and old squads coming together.
There will be new faces that have never seen a tournament. It is those people who I am most excited for. They are the people who stand to get something unique out of it. Quidditch is an addiction. You get a taste and never want to leave it.
To me, quidditch means safety. When I am struggling the most, when I can’t face speaking to anyone, when all I want to do is hide in bed under the covers, if I can force myself to go to quidditch, even just to watch, I feel a little better. Hugs are shared all around, there’s always a shoulder to cry on if you need it, there is always someone there to include you.
I have only touched on this, there is so much more I could say. But for now I want to leave on a thank you.
Thank you to my team. Thank you for being there when I needed it most. Thank you for being my team.