It’s not just fictional witches and wizards in Harry Potter novels playing Quidditch these days. U-M is one of more than 400 colleges and 300 high schools registered with the International Quidditch Association.

Take a peek below at a Quidditch game played in Nichols Arboretum this past fall, and read on for the inside scoop about how this new sport is played.

Michigan Quidditch (KWI-ditch) n. Created by J.K. Rowling for the Harry Potter book series, Quidditch is the popular sport among wizards and witches. The original game pits two seven-player teams on flying broomsticks against each other until the Golden Snitch—a flying ball approximately the size of a walnut—is caught or time expires. Without the power of flight in the non-wizarding world, players hold broomsticks as they attempt goals by tossing volleyballs through PVC piping and hula hoops. The Snitch is played by a runner dressed in yellow carrying a tennis ball in a sock. As the Seeker—the coveted role played by Harry Potter in the books—attempts to find and capture the Snitch, the other players try to rack up points with goals. Each goal is worth ten points, while catching the Snitch garners a team thirty points. The team who wins two of three matches wins the game.

Tradition (truh-DISH-uhn) n. The first Harry Potter book (of the seven-book series) was published in 1997 when Emily Byl, public policy major and founder of U-M’s Quidditch team, was seven years old. Since that time, Byl’s entire family has embraced the wizarding lifestyle, even naming their dog “Hagrid” after a character in the series. Byl spearheaded an Ann Arbor division of Quidditch, registering it with the very real International Quidditch Association. Other schools in the IQA include Harvard, MIT, and, yes, even Ohio State. Even though she was aware of Harry Potter’s popularity, Byl was overwhelmed at the interest shown by other students during recruitment at Festifall.

Passion (PASH-uhn) n. Every Sunday afternoon, the team meets at their Quidditch Pitch, the field in Nichols Arboretum, for that week’s match. The team consists of different ages and skill levels. Byl, announcer for the matches, speaks in a British accent and team members make quips about details from the books. Danielle Dubois, a sociology major, jokes that Quidditch “combines nerdiness with athleticism.” Although adapted from a work of fiction, the injuries athletes sustain are all too real. Bloody noses, scraped knees, and cut legs are common.  

Pride (prahyd) n. In Michigan Quidditch, there are no fancy uniforms, pep rallies, or ESPN reporters standing on the sidelines. Teammates wear maize and blue Quidditch t-shirts with individual numbers outlined in tape. Spectators wander in while hiking through the Arb, usually without knowing anything about the game being played. Goalposts, made of PVC piping, and brooms, found in parents’ garages, often break during the game. Even so, players shout “Hail to the Victors” in time with a cowbell after goals, and triumphant cheers erupt when a Seeker returns with the Snitch.