By Milan Perera, Deputy Editor
What comes to your mind when you hear the word ‘Quidditch’? Hogwarts, Harry Potter and J.K Rowling. The latter has been under intense scrutiny lately for her comments about transgender rights, yet the irony is that the fantasy sport that once only graced the pages of Harry Potter has birthed perhaps one of the most intriguing and inclusive sports at Bristol.
Bristol Quadball Club – in July 2022, the sport was renamed officially – is the SU Society dedicated to bringing the joy and excitement of Quadball to the playing fields of the University of Bristol. Bristol Quadball Club is a joint society between the University of Bristol and the University of West England (UWE) that welcomes any and all students of the two Bristol-based universities to their fellowship.
Epigram had the pleasure of catching up with Bristol Quadball coach, Sam Frohlich, in view of the upcoming Freshers Fair. Frohlich and the fellow members of the Bristol Quadball Club have already made arrangements to make the Freshers event at Durdham Downs memorable for the newest year group at the University.
When we asked how she would sum up Quadball to a complete beginner, she said:
‘A mixture of handball, rugby, dodgeball and wrestling! It's a whole load of chaos, but I now much prefer it to games with only one ball.’
Originating in the fictional wizarding universe of Harry Potter, Quadball is a high-speed, contact sport played on broomsticks. In the fictional universe, it was introduced in the 11th century and has since become a staple among the wizards. The game's unique combination of strategy, athleticism, and a sprinkle of magic has captured the imaginations of millions of readers and moviegoers worldwide.
However, the real-life Quadball emerged in the mid-2000s and has grown into a vibrant and competitive sport played by teams around the globe. While the game retains the core elements from the books, such as chasers, beaters, and seekers, there are some key adaptations that accommodate Muggles and add a touch of reality.
Real-life Quadball is played with players on PVC pipes instead of witches’ broomsticks, running around with a ball in hand and striving to score points by throwing the ball through the opposing team's hoops. Players holding “broomsticks” between their legs ensures that everyone faces similar challenges, creating an inclusive environment. Additionally, a neutral player known as the “snitch runner” carries a ball attached to their waistband, with seekers from both teams trying to grab it for extra points.
Bristol Quadball Club practices on Wednesdays and Saturdays at the Downs. Epigram had the opportunity to see Bristol Quadball players in action on an overcast Wednesday, where the ground was wet and slippery. Corey Pearce (Social Secretary), Jasmine Poon (President) and the team captain, Sasha Akhtyrska were more than happy to shed some light on the intricacies of the sport during a training session.
There’s nothing ‘airy fairy’ about Quadball. It is a high-octane sport that requires you to be on your toes throughout the game. But in the meantime, it transcends physical prowess and body stereotyping, catering to all body shapes, sizes and genders.
One of the remarkable aspects of Quadball is its commitment to inclusivity. The sport welcomes players of all genders and physical abilities. From beginners to experienced athletes, Quadball offers an opportunity for everyone to participate and contribute. Speaking on the inclusive element of Quadball, Frohlich said:
‘It is so inclusive! Not only is it for all genders and fully LGBTQAI+ friendly, but it's also a safe space for less sporty people. It has got a lovely mix of nerdy and sporty people, so if you wanna be competitive you can, but also if you just want some fun that's fine as well.’
Frohlich, who is reading for a PhD in Computer Science also elaborated on the social aspect beyond the competitive nature of the sport, where Quadball nurtures a strong sense of community and camaraderie.
Players often form lasting friendships through their shared love for the sport, attending tournaments and events that celebrate both the game and the magical world that inspired it. Quadball players come together not just to compete but to celebrate their passion for fantasy and athleticism. When we asked what Quadball means to her, she said:
‘Quadball is a welcoming community that I joined as a Fresher, and have stayed with through my whole degree and post-grad. It's given me friends for life, and amazing opportunities (such as travelling to different countries, and competing and captaining Team Scotland), all while keeping me fit.’
Quidditch, once a figment of J.K. Rowling's imagination, has found a place in competitive sports, transcending fiction to become a beloved pastime that thrives on teamwork and athleticism.
As players race around with broomsticks and chase after elusive snitches, they pay homage to the enchanting world of Harry Potter while crafting their own unique narrative of teamwork, inclusivity, and competition.
Whether you're a die-hard Potterhead or simply curious about trying something new, Quadball offers a thrilling experience that blends fantasy with reality in the most captivating way. Why not meet the Quadball squad on a Wednesday at the Downs to give it a try?
Will you be trying your hand at a new sport this autumn?