Players, get on your brooms! Kansas City semi-pro quidditch team enters the field | KCUR 89.3
It’s a hot, sticky June afternoon in eastern Kansas. In the generous shade of an oak tree, the members of the Kansas City Scramble drink some water and chat about the latest episode of “Obi-Wan Kenobe.”
After a few minutes, coach Adam Heald says, “Let’s go, Stampede.” They return to the field and ride broomsticks, performing drills in preparation for their next game with the San Antonio Soldados.
It’s time to play quidditch.
“It’s a high-intensity, full-contact co-ed sport,” says Stampede manager Austin Pitts.
The sport debuted in the popular imagination in 1997, introduced in JK Rowling’s ‘Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone’, but the non-magical version formulated on a college campus in Vermont in 2005.
A decade later, the sport is played on campuses, communities and clubs worldwide. Kansas City Stampede is part of the Major League Quidditch, founded in 2015 in the United States.
There is no stealing, but an elaborate mix of football, basketball, rugby, dodgeball, wrestling and volleyball. Each team has three hoops of different heights, raised 3 to 6 feet in the air on opposite sides of the field. The chasers try to get the quaffle (a volleyball) into one of the hoops (for 10 points), while the batsmen throw dodge balls at them to knock them out of the game. Passers-by protect the hoops.
In the original fantasy game, the final ball – the golden snitch – is a golden winged ball. Here it is an MLQ official, who wears a tennis ball on his cue (similar to flag football). The official comes in during the second half of the game and does everything in his power to evade each team’s seekers, who are vying for a snitch that awards their team 45 points.
Unlike the original version, catching the snitch does not automatically win the match, with the teams battling for a set point in the second half. Headbands of different colors distinguish the role of a player on the field.
Chaos is one of the charms of sport.
“It feels like there are two games in the game,” Heald says. “Most other sports focus on one ball…with quidditch there are four balls, so it’s a very interesting challenge.”
“It’s beautiful to watch high-level games,” says Pitts.
Both Pitts and Heald were Harry Potter fans growing up, learning the sport in high school and joining the University of Kansas quidditch team in college, where they served as co-captains.
The sport was not what they had imagined, however.
“I was like ‘oh my God,'” Pitts says. “It was just eye-opening to see how intense and competitive and passionate everyone was about the sport. I was hooked right away.”
The Kansas City Stampede was founded in 2016, as part of MLQ’s first expansion, and it is the only MLQ team in the area. Most Stampede players come from regional collegiate clubs: University of Kansas, University of Missouri, and Creighton University in Omaha, Nebraska, with a 200-mile recruiting radius. During the school year, they are friendly rivals. During the summer, they are teammates.
And while the Harry Potter aspect is often what intrigues people in the sport, it’s the competition and camaraderie that keeps them going.
In practice, drummer Keighlyn “KJ” Johnson wears a forest green “Slytherin Alumni” cap. This is his first year with the Stampede. She has been playing for the University of Missouri team for a year, which she says was one of the main reasons she went to Mizzou.
It’s also the first time she’s played sports with people who aren’t women, having grown up on volleyball and softball teams.
“I felt a little intimidated at first, because I had never played on a team with guys,” she said. “It was really weird, and then as you get into it…you don’t even look at it anymore because we’re different…we just play a sport that we love.”
Kate Rues, who plays the hunter and guardian, is in her second year with the Stampede. She’s not a huge Harry Potter fan, but during the 2020 pandemic lockdown, she and a friend were walking through Lawrence, Kansas, when they spotted hula hoops in a foggy field where some people were practicing. They watched for a while, started chatting, and were invited to practice the next day.
“It became my only social outing, I would never have played quidditch before, and then I met the coolest people ever,” she says.
“If you’re willing to carry a broomstick between your legs in public, you obviously don’t have insecurities, so you meet the safest people in the world, who are very outgoing,” Rues says. “They are not afraid of perceptions.”
(“Brooms” are often made from PVC pipe, ¾ inch in diameter and about 40 inches long, with no bristles.)
“I think it’s really cool to be able to play with people of all genders and they can play any role,” Heald says. “The dynamics of all these little details of the sport combine and make it kind of crazy and fun to watch and play.”
Both Major League Quidditch and US Quidditch, which governs collegiate teams, are advocates for gender equity, and the sport welcomes transgender players and non-binary players.
There is still work to do. The league has a ‘two minimum’ rule, stipulating that at least two players on a team must be of a different gender from the others on the pitch, but some clubs translate this to a maximum of two women, making it more difficult to participate. women. in the game.
One-third of Stampede players are women. Katie Branstetter is an assistant coach, and previous managers have also included women, with players going on to play for Team USA in the Quidditch World Cup.
As the Stampede prepares for its first and only home game of the season, drills take each player through an intense round robin where they play every position. It’s a young team. Most players have two to three years of gaming experience.
But Heald is thrilled with their chances. In a scrimmage earlier this season, the first time the team had a real chance to play together, they won all three games against the Indianapolis Intensity.
“We have a lot of good athletes this year,” he said.
But they face the San Antonio team, considered one of the best in the league.
“I think we can hold on, physically, but they bring a lot of experience to the table,” Heald said of San Antonio.
“Regularly, out of about twelve teams, we sit on the top-six boundary and that’s always where our goal is, to show that we’re in the top half of the league,” says Pitts.
“We’re very confident in our ability to make champions, and I think we can fight with the best teams,” Pitts says, though he adds it’s not always about winning, it’s about competing .
“Everybody has a lot of heart,” Rues says. “It’s the weirdest, but most spirited sport of any sports team ever.”
The Kansas City Scramble plays the San Antonio Soldados at 6 p.m. Saturday, July 2 at Swope Soccer Village in Kansas City’s Swope Park, 6310 Lewis Rd, Kansas City, Missouri, 64132.