Edmonton quidditch veterans and rookies prepare to ride broomsticks as they vie for a citywide title on Saturday.
The annual Edmonton Quidditch Cup, a tournament taking place from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. at Mill Woods Park, will feature national-level athletes as well as rookie competitors who may not have played a game before. .
“It’s so much fun,” said Jasper Whitby, quidditch player and vice-president of the Edmonton Aurors. “I’m so excited to play quidditch again.”
Quidditch, the sport played by witches and wizards in the Harry Potter series, combines elements of football and basketball.
In the movies, two teams soar through the air on broomsticks over a field. Forwards try to score by throwing a ball – the quaffle – past a goalkeeper and through one of three hoops. Each goal is worth 10 points. The game is over when the Seeker catches the Golden Snitch, a small golden ball with wings that is worth 150 points.
In the muggle version of the sport, founded in 2005, the quaffle is a slightly deflated volleyball and the Golden Snitch is worth 30 points. Players are still riding broomsticks – although they are not airborne.
Each year, local players aged 16 and over compete in the Edmonton Quidditch Cup. Participants of all athletic abilities are preparing for the tournament, ahead of the start of their regular season in September, Whitby said.
The number of teams competing on Saturday will depend on the number of players registered, Whitby added.
More players are needed to continue fueling competitive leagues, Whitby said.
Encouraging new people to sign up means, among other things, making the sport even more inclusive for people of all genders and sporting abilities.
Create an inclusive sports environment
Whitby, who is non-binary, started playing quidditch in the fall of 2018, after their sister convinced them to give it a shot.
Whitby uses them instead of the gender-specific pronoun she or he.
“It’s the coolest sport ever,” Whitby recalled at the time. “I’m absolutely addicted.”
Three months later they were vice-presidents of his club, they said.
Whitby had always struggled to find a sport that made them feel included, they explained. Even mixed athletics required competitors to register as male or female, so they could never declare their true gender identity during registration.
Quidditch, however, provided an inclusive environment.
“It really lets you be who you are, which most sports don’t,” Whitby said.
For Jon Golla, quidditch player and competitive coach, joining the Edmonton Aurors was an eye-opening experience.
“It’s really cool to see that non-binary people, people who identify as trans, have a place to play something competitive and meaningful,” Golla said.
“In any other sport they may not be allowed to compete at higher levels.”
Golla will compete in the Edmonton Cup on Saturday and is excited to share his passion for inclusive sport with new players.
Sports actors distance themselves from the author
Quidditch stems from beloved fiction Harry Potter series, written by JK Rowling. But many quidditch players and enthusiasts around the world have longed to distance themselves from Rowling’s transphobic views.
Major League Quidditch – a national league with teams across the United States, as well as Toronto and Ottawa – and US Quadball, the national governing body for quidditch in the United States, have already changed the sport’s name to quadball.
Quidditch Canada, the national governing body, has yet to adopt the name change, but is planning a name change in January.
“I have very mixed emotions about the name change,” said Cayley Mendoza, quidditch player and Edmonton Aurors spokesperson.
Mendoza grew up reading Harry Potter and still has an emotional connection to the series. But she was hurt by some of Rowling’s remarks, so recognizes the need for space.
“It’s really important to create distance and create our own future that we can shape in a positive way for our community,” Mendoza said.
Whitby wants to create a space where everyone feels safe playing Quidditch and competing in tournaments, regardless of how they identify.
“Gender is our starting point, but we try to expand it as best we can,” they said.
“We’ll never be perfect, but we really try to make any marginalized identity feel comfortable and safe.”