Published Apr 1, 2011 8:00 AM
Muggle Quidditch got its humble start in 2005, when students at Middlebury College in Vermont — bored with playing bocce — decided to create a new game by adapting the wizards-only rules in J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter books.
Student Xander Manshel worked out real-life rules and named the game "Muggle Quidditch." (A "muggle" is a person with no magical powers). He and fellow student Alex Benepe recruited others from their dorm to play the new game, for which they wore capes and used old brooms from the broomball team; goals were constructed of hoops duct-taped to chairs or garbage cans.
Soon, Middlebury was fielding 10 Quidditch teams and Manshel became the first commissioner of Middlebury's intramural league.
In 2006, Benepe took over as Middlebury commissioner and increased the league's visibility by raising money, forming an organizing committee and converting the end-of-the-season World Cup tournament into a full-blown festival with food and entertainment. Middlebury invited Vassar College to the tournament, and the resulting expo match between the two schools was covered by USA Today in Collegiate Quidditch Takes Off.
Before long, dozens of people were emailing Benepe to ask how they could start their own Quidditch teams. In 2010, the Intercollegiate Quidditch Association became a registered nonprofit organization and changed its name to the International Quidditch Association.
The IQA's current projects include sending out weekly emails to its 1,000-plus college and high-school teams in 13 countries; publishing a magazine called The Monthly Seer and creating a fundraising campaign to raise money for its new "Adopt a Team" program, which will launch teams or phys-ed programs at elementary and middle schools throughout the U.S.
"The thrill for me comes from watching people experience the game for the first time, that 'click' that happens in their brain when they fully comprehend how wonderful and crazy [Quidditch] is," Benepe says. "It allows me to vicariously relive that moment when I first played the game, and it inspires me to keep pushing the edge of the envelope and pushing the game farther out to more people."
Find out more about the IQA here.