Quidditch players from across the Southeast will swoop into Columbia Saturday, Feb. 11 and Sunday, Feb. 12, to play a zany game with sticks between their legs.
Teams from Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Mississippi, South Carolina and Tennessee will be in Columbia for the South Regional Championship. The winners will advance to the Quidditch Cup in Kissimmee, Florida.
Quidditch is the sport of choice for the witches and wizards in J.K. Rowling’s “Harry Potter” books, as well as a small contingent of real-world reader-athletes. It’s a coed, full-contact sport that combines elements of dodgeball, rugby and lacrosse. Players, who wear mouth guards but no pads, must keep a broomstick between their legs at all times.
Columbia was the site of Quidditch Cup 9 in April. It’s not the only South Carolina city to market itself to quidditch players, either. Rock Hill hosted the Quidditch Cup in 2015 and Myrtle Beach in 2014.
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“We’re so excited to be back in Columbia,” U.S. Quidditch events director Mary Kimball said in a news release. “The community really embraced our sport and athletes, and the venue exceeded our expectations.”
The event is expected to draw about 1,200 attendees and generate an estimated $200,000 in economic impact, according to the Columbia Regional Sports Council.
River Galicia, captain of the College of Charleston quidditch team, said his team has been preparing for regionals with practices and scrimmages three times a week.
“I always thought (quidditch) was interesting. How can you not when you read ‘Harry Potter?’ You want to play the game,” he said
The biggest challenge in the game, he added, is cultivating awareness.
“There’s so much going on on the field at the same time,” he said. Five balls – three bludgers, one quaffle and the golden snitch – create what might seem like chaos to the uninitiated spectator. For a player, it means trying to score with the quaffle, avoid getting hit with a bludger and capture the snitch only at the right time – the game ends when the snitch is caught. (Unlike the books, the snitch is not a self-propelled golden ball. It’s a person dressed in yellow with a tennis-ball tail.)
Ryan Davis, a captain for the Carolina Heat Quidditch Club in Columbia, said the game becomes most exciting once snitch enters the fray in the 18th minute. “That’s when everything heats up. That’s when all the pressure is on. That’s when you can see which team has it together.”
This year, spectators can expect close games, he added. “The teams are the most balanced they’ve been in years. There’s not one particular team that is expected to destroy everyone.”
If you go
WHAT: South Regional Quidditch Championship
WHEN: 8 a.m.-2 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 11 and 8 a.m.-6 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 12
WHERE: The Palmetto Health Fields at Saluda Shoals Park, 6071 St Andrews Road
WORTH NOTING: Kids can learn to play the game during training sessions at 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 11 and at noon and 3 p.m. on Sunday, Feb. 12
Carolina Heat Quidditch Club, College of Charleston, Florida State University, Florida’s Finest, Flying Panthers Quidditch Club, Gainesville Siege, inTENNsity, Nearly Headless Knights, Quidditch Club at the University of Tennessee Knoxville, The Southern Storm, University of Miami, University of South Florida Quidditch, University of Southern Mississippi
MUGGLE – A non-wizard. In other words, you.
CHASERS – Players on each team who try to score points by kicking or throwing the quaffle through a hoop.
KEEPER – One player on each team who guards the team’s three hoops from the other team’s chasers.
BEATERS – Defensive players on each team who throw bludgers at opponents to disrupt them.
BLUDGERS – Multiple balls used by beaters to disrupt other players. If a player is hit by a bludger, he or she must drop any other ball they are holding, return to their side and touch one of their goalposts before re-entering play.
SEEKER – One player on each team who chases and tries to catch the snitch to score points and end the game.
SNITCH – A neutral runner dressed in yellow with a tail attached to the back of his or her shorts. The snitch comes into the game at the start of the 18th minute of play and tries to evade capture. Once a seeker catches the snitch, the game is over. Catching the snitch is worth 30 points. The team with the most points wins.
QUAFFLE – A volleyball that is kicked or thrown through hoops to score points. There is only one quaffle in a game. Each goal is worth 10 points.
Source: U.S. Quidditch