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Wednesday, December 2, 2020

WWU Quidditch begins in-person practice

After a long period of being patient, and with restrictions on how they can practice, WWU Quidditch players are excited to be back on the field

After a long period of being patient, and with restrictions on how they can practice, WWU Quidditch players are excited to be back on the field

By Justin Hecht

One aspect of what separates quidditch as a real-life sport and quidditch within the Harry Potter series is, unsurprisingly, “muggle quidditch” is played with two feet on the ground. But WWU Quidditch is trying to fly around COVID-19.

WWU Quidditch had its first practice since March on Saturday, Oct. 24. The team plans to practice every other week for the remainder of the year.

This has been the longest period of time without practices or games in the sport’s history, said Mary Kimball, the US Quidditch executive director.

Players are required to maintain social distancing and wear masks during practice as well as disinfect the balls, brooms and any other equipment after, Thomas Hughes, the WWU Quidditch vice president, said.

Team members can be in groups of up to five as they practice, and the only drills they can do are noncontact. But they are still able to simulate in-game scenarios, Hughes said.

The workouts were, “Good for getting ready for the physical demands of throwing a ball, running around with a broom in between your legs — that kind of stuff,” Hughes said.

At each practice, an on-site supervisor ensures the team is following protocols and helps get them any safety supplies they might need, said Jenn Cook, the Associated Students program advisor.

Going into the quarter, team members were eager to start practice again, but the paperwork that needed to be completed beforehand pushed them back about a month, said Linnea Boice, the WWU Quidditch president.

The paperwork consisted of the team creating a plan for practicing with minimal risk of infection, in addition to filling out forms agreeing to follow all COVID-19 guidelines while practicing, Cook said.

“Holding a broom again was super satisfying and reminded me why I love the sport and love the club in the first place. It made all the paperwork worth it,” Boice said.

In addition to Western’s guidelines for practicing in- person again, the team also has to follow US Quidditch’s return to play guidelines.

While developing the guidelines, US Quidditch had a risk management team consisting of members of the medical community serving as supervisors and editors during the entire process, Kimball said.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s, World Health Organization’s, the Women’s Flat Track Derby Association’s and the World Rowing Federation’s COVID-19 guidelines all were influential as well, Kimball said.

The Women’s Flat Track Derby Association and World Rowing Federation’s return to play guidelines were two of the few that had data-driven baseline conditions that required a certain case rate per 100,000 people in order to have activities. US Quidditch has less resources than these two, so it was helpful to rely on them, Kimball said.

Out of all of the clubs Kimball has spoken with, it sounds like they agree that, “It is a lot of work to comply with our requirements, but it’s worth it,” she said.

WWU Quidditch players agree that it’s good to be back.

Second-year Western student Jeffrey Hayes, who in his first year played all positions except beater, said he is happy to have the opportunity to get exercise outdoors with the community after months of not knowing when they would return. 

Before all in-person activities were canceled, WWU Quidditch had just wrapped up their competitive season in February with a tournament in California.

“It was disappointing to not be able to do some of our more fun and casual club events in the spring,” Boice said. “We normally have a Quidditch camping trip over Memorial Day weekend and an alumni game near the end of the quarter.”

“In lieu of any in-person activities, we were able to hold a few online events. Alumni game night was a big hit. We had to do breakout rooms for different virtual games because the group was too big for just one,” Boice said.

Looking ahead, the future of the team’s activities and the team itself is uncertain.

Boice said she hopes the team will be allowed to practice with larger groups in the spring and possibly have an alumni game — where former members come back to play current students. 

“Especially since many of us are graduating, I want to be sure to have a chance to thank some of the people who started the club and kept it going so that I had the chance to be involved, as a way to conclude my time as president,” Boice said.

As many players will graduate, they hope to do some recruiting in the spring that they weren’t  able to do in the fall, Hughes said.

“There might be an awkward phase in which there’s not going to be very many members, and a lot of the members are going to be new and a lot of them are going to have to take up leadership positions,” Hughes said.

The team’s main recruiting draw, the Fall Info Fair, was online this quarter, and the virtual booth did not bring in as many students as usual. But the team will try to continue on, Hughes said.

“I’ve played quite a few different sports, and I’ve never found a community as welcoming and enthusiastic as Quidditch,” Boice said. “As far as being in the club, if you want to join, we want to have you. Whether you own all the Harry Potter books or have never seen a single movie — we aren’t the Harry Potter Club, no one is going to try to explain what a Hufflepuff is — whether you were a varsity athlete or a band kid, we’re really just looking for people who think Qquidditch is cool,” Boice said.

Players do not only come for the competition and exercise. What endures is the team’s sense of community. 

As team president, Boice said one of her favorite parts of the club is the people she gets to lead.

“I’ve made some really close friends through the club that I wouldn’t have met otherwise,” Boice said.

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