A sea of brightly colored T-shirts covered East River Flats Park on Sunday afternoon as more than 200 students gathered to try out for a sport that doesn’t get much Big Ten attention — Quidditch .
Luke Zak said his love for the “Harry Potter” book series, where the game originates, inspired him to start the University of Minnesota’s Quidditch league in 2010.
But two years after the last “Harry Potter” movie, players say the group has evolved past just a shared interest in the series — they see it as a competitive sport now more than ever.
On the page and the silver screen, Quidditch players fly on broomsticks and the game is a kind of combination of rugby and soccer. But real-world players have adapted the game, holding a broomstick between their legs while running instead of flying.
The University’s Quidditch student group has a competition team that travels around the nation for games, and an intramural league of 11 teams.
Taylor Zastrow, president of the Quidditch student group, said membership for both teams has grown every year.
Though most group members were “Harry Potter” fans when the team started, she said, some players on this year’s roster aren’t familiar with the series at all.
“There are quite a few people that just decided to pick it up because they thought it looked fun or interesting,” she said. “Loving ‘Harry Potter’ isn’t necessarily required anymore.”
Leah Vogel has played Quidditch since the league began and said the books and movies are rarely mentioned at practices anymore.
“I would say a good chunk of people here aren’t even ‘Harry Potter’ fans,” she said.
Biology, science and environment sophomore Anders Bell said he isn’t a super-fan, but Quidditch “has an appeal beyond ‘Harry Potter.’”
Quidditch’s charm lies in the competitive aspect, group members said, which overpowers the wands and capes. Some players said they consider the game and series to be almost entirely separate.
“It’s a lot more difficult than people think it is,” team spokeswoman Kayla Millard said. “We try to actually separate it a little bit so that non-‘Harry Potter’ fans … can still come and play.”
For many newcomers, the spirit of “Harry Potter” is still alive and well. Chicken ‘n’ Quaffles, a new intramural team, is full of self-professed die-hard fans.
Theater and music freshman Bradley Prom said Quidditch has survived the end of the “Harry Potter” series because there are still students who want to immerse themselves in the story.
“It’s something that wouldn’t actually occur in real life,” he said, “but then we found a way to somehow do it.”
“Some people definitely do it for more than nostalgia,” biology sophomore and league member Ben Spokely said. “Most people are a mix of both-they’re ‘Harry Potter’ fans but not fanatics.”
In February, the University will host eight teams from around the Midwest for a tournament.
“We wanted to show people around the region that we’re a really strong team, not just in our players but in our organization,” Zastrow said.
Though Zastrow and many of the other original players will graduate this spring, the team will continue on.
“I know that people in the community across the United States don’t necessarily equate Quidditch with ‘Harry Potter’ anymore because it’s not necessary,” she said. “Because there’s so many people who appreciate it just for the sport that it is.”