Cold weather and snowfall did not stop students at UTSC from participating in a familiar game to Harry Potter fans: Quidditch.
Two teams of the Quidditch club at the University of Toronto Scarborough Campus, the UTSC Phoenix and the community-based Valhalla, faced off on Nov. 30 at the UTSC tennis grounds at Old Kingston Road and Military Trail.
Participants trained for the game by attending three-hour sessions up to five times a week and on weekends. Braving temperatures as low as minus-11 degrees, the team would practise drills and work on their tackling skills.
“This was actually warm weather for Quidditch — we are used to playing in the rain,” said Mary Yacoubian, president of both UTSC Quidditch teams. “Quidditch goes on for an entire year. It’s a lifestyle choice at this point.”
But the Quidditch teams are more serious than simply just an outlet for Harry Potter fans to share their common interest in the books and movies, the UTSC teams are part of a worldwide Quidditch franchise. Started seven years ago, the franchise has 1,000 teams worldwide. UTSC Quidditch, however, just celebrated its second birthday and had an inter-house league that started last year.
“We started off with just a small group of people, just tossing the ball around,” said Cody Mulholland, executive of marketing at UTSC, as well as captain of UTSC Phoenix and a seeker and chaser for UTSC’s Phoenix team. “Eventually we got some hoops, some brooms and started competing against other teams and going to tournaments.”
What makes the sport of Quidditch stand out from the other sports teams is “the nature of inclusivity,” according to Yacoubian. Although there is a heavy Harry Potter fan base among the teammates, there are many players in the team who were interested in playing the sport because of their lifelong commitment to train as athletes, some of whom are involved in other sports, such as Rugby.
“There was pattern developing of people showing interest and wanting to meet regularly, so we decided to form a team and with that team we saw people being motivated to continue it and registered it with the International Quidditch Association, which is the governing body of all the Quidditch teams in the world and we started playing many universities,” said Lomeharshan Lall, captain of the Valhalla team.
The nature of inclusiveness is also stressed with a two-minimum gender rule where both genders are required to play on the field at one time. Therefore, both females and males are required to play at the same time.
“People are committed, they love the sport,” Lall said. “Even the Quidditch community across Canada is so close that all the teams know each other, they’re friends with each other.”
Both UTSC Quidditch teams contend for the Canada Cup every year, as well as the World Cup in the United States, where they have the opportunity to catch up with friends and opposing teammates.
“Every tournament feels like a family reunion,” Yacoubian said. “People you rarely see, people you’ve bonded with. The community is very accepting. It’s just a wonderful environment for people who may have not done sports before.”
“Regardless of what happens today, we are all hugging each other at the end of this,” he said.
“It’s competition and community.”