The most magical part of the Harry Potter books is what happened after “All was well.” The seven books and eight movies that told Harry’s story became the foundation of a global community that wasn’t content with simply consuming this media. These people brought the story to life in the real world.
These people brought us the Harry Potter Alliance and Transfiguring Adoption, two non-profit organization dedicated to helping people through the power of words. They brought us Wizard Rock, a Harry Potter musical, and even a puppet show. In 2005, a group of them brought us a real-world adaptation of the books’ game, Quidditch. Now over 4000 athletes are registered with US Quidditch and one of them, Courtney Reynolds from the UNC team, told me about her experience with the game.
(Disclaimer: This transcript was edited for length and clarity.)
K: How did you get started with Quidditch?
C: I went to UNC and my freshman year I was like, “Quidditch seems kinda cool, like it’s an athletic sport, but also silly, and I was just like mildly interested in it. UNC has no online presence whatsoever, so I couldn’t play because I couldn’t find them. And then one day I was just walking through campus and was like, “Hey look, there they are.” I just hopped in with them and they had a private page. I went to one tournament the very next day. I had no idea what I was doing. And yeah, I just kept playing from there.
K: I actually went to UNC too, so where on campus?
C: Do you know where Mangum the dorm is?
C: They were literally playing, ok so there’s grass in front of them with sidewalks crisscrossing through it: yeah, right there.
K: That sounds safe.
C: Yeah, it was questionable. But back in the day there was no tackling, so it was a little less bad, but…
K: How long have you been doing it?
C: Umm…So from like the last week of my freshman year, and I graduated a year ago, like tomorrow, basically. So…four years, I guess.
K: Is it hard to keep involved if you’re not going to school anymore?
C: Well now I live in Charlotte…so I don’t really go to practice unless I visit – I have a boyfriend that goes there, so I visit him and we sometimes practice on Sundays, sometimes…so like, I never practice. And I’m way more out of shape this year. I’m running and I’m just like [gasping noises]. It’s not good. What keeps you involved I feel like is that they’re very social. They’re like, “Hey, we’re going to the mall to eat burgers: everybody get in the car.” Or like, “Come over and drink.” The first time I ever drank in college was like, “Hey, Quidditch! Have a drink.” And the parties…we play King’s Cup and Never Have I Ever and stuff, so it makes you get to know people faster, which is nice.
K: What’s been your favorite or most memorable match or World Cup?
C: I think I liked the first World Cup I went to the best, which was in Myrtle Beach, because the venue was phenomenal, the team village was awesome, they were giving out free Powerade all day. The weather was perfect like today, and it was my first one, and we did really well. It was just like, “Wait…is my team actually good?” I never think about my team being good, it’s just the team that I play on: it is what is. We win some and we lose some. We got to World Cup and I was like, “Huh…we’re actually kinda good.” And so from there it got a lot more intense. Because we realized: it was our first World Cup and we actually killed some of these teams. We have a chance. So definitely that one.
We were playing Florida’s Finest, which used to be the best team in Florida, and they didn’t even make it this year. I think they went in too confident to Regionals, personally. But we were playing them and we were tied on and on and on and on, and they finally caught the Snitch and beat us. But that game, we were like, “We did not expect to be in range,” and it was so good.
K: What keeps you playing? You’re probably paying for a lot of this travel and you’re not at the school practicing, so what keeps you coming back?
C: Definitely the people. I am lucky that my parents want me to be active. Even though I’ve graduated, they’re like, “We’ll pay your $50 membership fee.” So I might as well play. And my boyfriend’s the captain, so he’s all about it. I try not to be lazy but at home, I just don’t work out. I have to be in somewhat shape to run around for four games, so it keeps me motivated to work out. So I play for that too, but mostly the people. I’ve known all of them so long. Now I’m the oldest one, and it’s kind of weird. And I just love the physicality. I can go out and tackle somebody if I want. I love being able to do that. That should be a thing more often that I get to do. But I haven’t tackled anyone today which is a bit sad, but it’s fine. Tomorrow.
K: You said tackling wasn’t a thing before, right?
C: It wasn’t.
K: So when did that change? How did that happen?
C: When the USQ got real official. The one at Myrtle Beach, I think, they started making every player pay $50. Before that you didn’t. Your team paid $200 and that was it. And then one year they were like, “every player has to pay us $50,” and I’m like, “That’s a shit ton of money.” And then it just got more intense, as a whole sport. Also because we play other teams. When we played the other Carolina teams, like App and Greensboro, we were probably the most physical and they hated us. No one wanted to talk to us. In every single championship game we were in, which was every single championship game that existed in North Carolina, everyone would cheer against us and chant against us, every game, because they hated how physical we were. Because no one else tackled! And then we came to other teams, in other regions, and they’re like, “Yeah, that’s how you play Quidditch, you tackle.” So no one hates us nearly as much now because they do it too. But we were like, “Why not do it?” So I guess we kind of started it in North Carolina. They hated us. It was a good time. And we’re still the best in North Carolina, so it’s all good.
K: What other changes have you seen over the last four years?
C: Everything just got more official. There’s more parents supporting our team now, which is kind of nice. All the freshman parents are just like, “Fuck yeah, you play Quidditch!” And they’ll bring us food: bagels and muffins, and a whole cooler of Gatorade.
Also, I’ll just mention to people that I play Quidditch. Like, I dyed my hair this weekend because I have World Cup, and people are like, “Oh yeah, I know what that is. That’s a real sport. You get to tackle people.” My mom said she told three people at work and no one asked what it was because they all knew. They’re figuring it out.
K: So did you dye your hair for Quidditch?
C: I was at my boyfriend’s house, and his roommate bleached his hair and then he dyed it purple. He was like, “We’re bleaching hair, you should do it too.” And I was like, thirty seconds of thought, “Okay.”
K: I like that mentality, I really do. Now we have to do the Hogwarts questions: what Hogwarts house are you in?
C: Slytherin. All the way.
K: You know what? Talking to you for like ten minutes…
C: Not surprised?
K: Not surprised.
C: Win at any cost. As long as you don’t kill people, it’s all good.
K: And what would you say is your first—or your best—Harry Potter memory?
C: Does going to Harry Potter World count? Because I feel like that’s obvious, but…
K: It counts.
C: It’s amazing, and I’m going there again in two weeks and I’m really excited. I haven’t been in so long and I’m so excited! But as a kid, when every book was released, we’d buy three of them, because there are three kids in my family. All three of us would get a book…every single time. It was amazing.
K: If there are three kids in your family, that might’ve been the quietest it ever was in your house.
C: That’s probably true. Me and my twin sister, just bouncing off the walls together. I’m sure my parents were happy. Like, “Thank God, a day of silence.” Or that my brother would actually read a book.
K: Has anything funny or inspiring ever happened on the pitch, that comes to mind as your “go-to Quidditch story,” so to speak?
C: I feel like Kyle, with the purple beard and the really fierce… A lot of people hate him, right? Because he’s really physical and will like, just kill someone, but it inspires me so much, because I love it…he’s so enthusiastic, and he loves doing it so much. That excitement for anything is just amazing and I love it so much. Just watching other people get super hyped, I guess.
K: You guys had a kind of scary moment this morning…
C: We lost! Ugh! That made me so upset. I was not a happy camper, let’s put it that way. Shouldn’t have lost. I can’t believe we lost. We were better than them. Our first game of the day is always the worst, every single time. Now it’s probably just a mental thing: getting your head in the game and getting tense. We see other teams warm up together and count in a circle, stretching, and ours is just like, “La-di-da-di-da. I guess I’ll throw the ball at you.” We’ve been really good this weekend about actually warming up, but normally we just take a bit to get mad. Mostly I think our team thrives on getting mad, and then we’re like, “I’m gonna ram this ball through the fucking hoop as hard as I can.” And then we play really well. We’re a very anger-fueled team, so we have to get angry first before we play well. And losing will do that to you. Losing to a team you know you’re better than… But it doesn’t matter, because we’re number 1 in our pool now officially, so. It just depends where we fall tomorrow and who we play. No stress about that at all! I was stressing out this morning.
K: What were you stressing about this morning? Just the game?
C: Yeah, just being at the World Cup. Everyone else on my team was like fucking fine, and I was just like, AHHHHHHH! WORLD CUP! I think a large part of it was, like, last year, I practiced three times a week every week, and I practice once a month. My biggest practices are going to other tournaments, and I’ll be sore after, so I was super nervous for myself. And there were only two times today I felt like, “I do not have enough stamina for this,” but it worked out well.
K: So you’re a beater, right?
C: I am a beater.
K: And you’re number 16.
K: Is there anything else you want people to know about Quidditch?
C: What annoys me is some of the UNC people who think “people should get equal playing time” and “everyone have fun,” and it’s not that level any more. Like I am going to kill someone if I don’t win. I need you to not play. I don’t really care about it, you’re going to sit the bench, because you’re not good. And some people don’t get that. I know it’s Quidditch, I get it, that it’s called Quidditch, but that’s not what it is. It’s a real sport. That’s my rant I guess.
K: And you said your boyfriend, he’s the Captain?
C: Yeah, Lee.
K: Is he the one who makes that kind of decision?
C: Like who plays? Yeah, he made it four days ago because he’s super responsible like that. Yeah, he’s the one who makes the decision. And thank goodness: UNC is one of…not every team, if you graduate they’ll let you play, because we’re an official UNC sports club, so only students can play, even if you’re an alumni. But UNC doesn’t care. Some kids don’t even go there. One kid went to UNCG, one kid goes to community college. They’re just like…whatever. UNC’s all about using the community, and I love that.
The UNC team was just one example of community over the weekend. Texas showed up with several teams, and they each supported the others. When Q.C. Boston won, the crowd, made up of eliminated teams and spectators from all over the country, formed a tunnel for them and Rochester, the runner-ups, to run through. There was even an after-party and everyone was invited.
That’s what the World Cup is truly about. Yes, this is a sport. Yes, it is about skill and athleticism coming together to showcase what these people can do. It’s even about the story of Harry Potter, about growing up and the struggle between good and evil, which is why it makes sense for those non-profit organizations to set up booths in Vendor Village. But overall, it’s about the people these various tenants bring together, people of different backgrounds who unite over their love of a story and their love of the game. People like Courtney Reynolds, whose love for her team drives her to keep playing and traveling despite the distance. In this, the sport’s tenth year, we celebrate those people who made the sport what is today, and the people who will fall in love with it in future and continue to make it great.