By Emilie Medland-Marchen, June 14 2016 —
When asked about quidditch, you might think of flying broomsticks and Harry Potter. But quidditch has recently gained steam as a legitimate sport outside of the imagination of J.K. Rowling.
Rachel Malone is the former coach and founder of the Calgary Mudbloods quidditch team at the University of Calgary. She was recently selected to attend the 2016 Quidditch World Cup in Frankfurt, Germany from July 23–24 as an alternate chaser. The Gauntlet spoke to her about her quidditch career and how she was selected to represent Team Canada internationally.
The Gauntlet: This is a question you probably get all the time, but what is quidditch exactly?
Rachel Malone: Quidditch is inspired by the sport that was written by J.K. Rowling. [It] started in 2005 at Middlebury College. There was a group of students there who were tired of playing bocce at midnight, so they were like, ‘Hey! Let’s try and figure out quidditch!’ That team then went around and taught a lot of teams in the northeast U.S., and it slowly grew and grew. In Canada, it started out at McGill University — they were the first Canadian team to start playing — and now it’s played all across Canada.
G: Do you have any previous sporting experience?
RM: I actually was a competitive swimmer for nine years, so that gave me some high-level athletics training. I’ve also played a bit of soccer here and there, a lot of quidditch players come from different athletic backgrounds. We get a decent amount of rugby players, and basketball players are always transferrable. We’ve gotten hockey players, football players — that kind of stuff. But we also get a lot of people who have never played sports, so quidditch is kind of interesting in that sense. You get people from all walks of sports.
G: What was the selection process for Team Canada like?
RM: The western tryouts had about 45 people there. And the eastern had close to 100. There was about 150 athletes vying for about 21 spots on the main roster and then 21 spots on the alternate roster.
G: In an interview with Metro you mentioned that quidditch has a lot of diversity compared to other sports. Can you explain that a little bit more?
RM: One of the things that is honestly my favourite part about quidditch is the fact that in the Harry Potter books, it was a mixed gender sport. You had men and women playing on the same team. And so when it was started in the U.S., they were like, ‘Let’s keep that. Let’s properly make a fully mixed gender sport.’ So that was really awesome. They codified what they call ‘Title 9 3/4’ — playing off of ‘Title 9’ and ‘Platform 9 3/4’ — which is codified in the yearbook as the ‘Four Maximum rule.’
The Four Maximum rule states that you cannot have more than four players on the field at a given time identifying as the same gender. It further states that the gender a player identifies with is the gender they play as. So it’s one of the most welcoming sports. It’s one of the first sports to recognize that gender isn’t a binary, which is awesome. And that just sort of promotes a lot of diversity in that sense. I think one of the Portland community teams has six different genders playing on their team. We had a number of non-binary players playing on our team this year, so that was really cool. I’ve learnt so much more about gender through playing quidditch.
G: How do you prepare for matches, and do you find that the approach is different than to other sports?
RM: Quidditch is entirely a team sport. You have three different teams that are basically working together to try and achieve one goal. So practice-wise, it’s a lot of basics — like throwing, passing, catching, that kind of stuff. You want to train contact pretty well, so you want to make sure you understand good contact. But we do the same sort of dynamic warm-ups that any soccer player or any rugby player would do.
G: Quidditch has struggled a bit with gaining legitimacy as a sport in Canada. Why do you think it’s treated differently than other more conventional sports?
RM: I think its roots are a large part of it — just the fact that it looks a little bit weird to people who don’t know it, or people who don’t understand that just because a sport came from fiction doesn’t mean that it’s fiction itself. A lot of people think that quidditch is LARPing — like live-action role playing, or something like that — and that’s not it at all. We don’t think that we’re flying, we don’t think that we’re in the Harry Potter books. We might have joined it because it’s from the Harry Potter books. A lot of us are super nerdy athletes, but we’re also athletes. You can be both. I think a lot of people have trouble wrapping their heads around that.
G: What are you most excited for at the World Cup in Frankfurt?
RM: I’m really excited to see a lot of the other teams. This is going to be my first really big tournament. There’s 25 countries coming, so it’s going to be really big. It’s also going to be my first time in Germany, so I’m really excited to go to Germany just in general.
But I’m really excited just to see players from all over the world. I knew when I was joining quidditch that I was going to be joining a global community. But this is going to be my first time properly experiencing that. There’s teams from Pakistan, Uganda, Peru, Mexico, Australia, Korea — all over the world, and all over Europe too. It’s going to be really, really interesting seeing that many countries there, playing such a fun, exciting sport.