With a broomstick tucked between my legs, I zipped through a pack of beaters and made a run for the hoops at the end of the field, only to be stopped by a brawny keeper towering a foot and a half over me. I held on to the quaffle a little tighter as I looked around for fellow chasers, searching for a clear passing lane.
What sounds like a scene taken straight from the pages of “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone,” actually took place deep in the grassy El Dorado Park amid peewee baseball games and youth dance teams.
There, you’ll find the stomping grounds for the Long Beach Funky Quaffles, an adult community quidditch team based in Long Beach. Quidditch, a fictional sport made up in J.K. Rowling’s “Harry Potter” series, made first contact in the muggle world in 2005 at Middlebury College in Vermont. The sport has grown significantly since then, with teams in over 40 countries and with an established governing body, the International Quidditch Association.
Taking elements from soccer, basketball and dodgeball; quidditch is a contact sport with seven players per team. The objective of the game is to score points by throwing a deflated volleyball (the quaffle) through any of three hoops on the opponent’s end of the field. That’s the role of the chasers. Meanwhile, dodgeballs (the bludgers) are thrown by beaters to “knock out” chasers temporarily.
Oh yeah, and you have to keep a broom between your legs the entire time.
When I lightheartedly volunteered to participate in a quidditch practice with the Long Beach Funky Quaffles to write this piece, I didn’t stop to think of the sheer athleticism this sport demands. In all honesty, I foolishly expected to prance around on a broomstick while reciting spells in a British accent.
But there I was, sprawled out on the grassy field, covered in sweat and completely out of breath.
According to Long Beach Funky Quaffles team manager, Jordin Morrill, this misconception isn’t uncommon.
“Everyone just thinks we’re a whole bunch of nerds who gather with capes and stuff. And that’s really not true. This is a full-contact sport,” Jordin said as a beater rammed into a chaser behind her.
I spent the night before my first practice “training” for this endeavor hunched over my laptop watching YouTube clips from the Harry Potter movies.
Quaffle. Golden snitch. Bludger?
The foreign words made my head spin. That was enough for one night. Little did I know that the vocabulary and rules would be the least of my worries.
I approached the practice field and watched as they executed a drill where three chasers go up against a beater and a keeper.
Their movements looked like a dance. Everyone seemed to know exactly where to be without saying a word. Watching the team move as one unit on the field, I found it hard to believe that only six years ago this team was a budding group composed of members with little to no experience in the sport.
Assistant team captain Hannah Moroz was a student at Long Beach State when the team was established in 2013.
“It was definitely started from the ground up,” Hannah said. “[We put] flyers on cars [and] showed up to events. That endeavor never really stopped. We’ve really picked up a lot of friends along the way and become a part of a larger community in the L.A. area.”
Only minutes after my arrival, I was enthusiastically beckoned by Jordin and several other members to join in on the next drill. I nervously obliged. Grabbing a broomstick, I jogged onto the field and joined the other team members in line.
Jordin provided a two-minute rundown on the quidditch rulebook and off I went. My former assumptions about the sport were quickly deflated as I tried to suppress the confused expression on my face. I eventually found that the best way to learn is to dive right in.
I was one of three chasers attempting to shoot a quaffle through one of the opponents’ hoops. The ball, possessed by Hannah at the point of our triangle, was at risk of being turned over as the keeper blocked any window for her to shoot.
She threw the quaffle to me and I lunged for the ball, but my efforts were futile as I was knocked out by a bludger.
I went through about six drills, attempting to get the ball through a hoop, only to be struck by a bludger or have my pass intercepted by a keeper.
Finally, the moment arrived. It was time for me to participate in my first quidditch match. The 20 minutes of drills and the two YouTube clips I watched the night before all led up to this glorious moment.
Jordin called me over and assigned me to a team. I quickly acquainted myself with my fellow teammates and the match began.
My head was spinning from the start, as bludgers ran after chasers flying passed me in all directions. My eyes flickered to Jordin, who had inadvertently become my quidditch den-mother throughout this undertaking.
I struggled to keep up with the action, occasionally taking an unwarranted breather in the center of the field while both teams continued battling.
It was a jumble of bludgers and quaffles, chasers and beaters. I lost track of the quaffle several times, mistaking it for one of the two other balls in play used to knock out chasers.
“There [are] three things going on at once, but it all happens simultaneously,” Long Beach Funky Quaffle member Duc Tran explained to me. “So you can’t forget about [any one], because if you do, you’re gonna get hit.”
In my case, I tripped over my own broom.
As much as I strived to score the game-winning point to tie up this story’s arc in a pretty little bow, I didn’t stand a chance against these seasoned athletes, many of whom have played for over five years.
While the match was played well on both sides, my final statline ended with no points or assists.
Despite my pathetic attempt at playing quidditch, the overwhelming support and sense of belonging everyone offered was enough to keep me enjoying myself.
Every fall, fumble or flagrant shot was followed by an encouraging cheer or helping hand, and I’m not the only one who felt this. Hannah, who graduated from CSULB in 2017 continues to play because of that sense of belonging.
“The way our relationships have developed into actual friendships has been the most important thing,” Hannah said. “If I were playing purely for the competition… I would’ve probably left. But I like to be with these people. You know what groups you belong in.”