Chris Chavez cranks his arm back while palming a deflated volleyball. His other hand grips a broomstick positioned between his legs. He eyes his target: a 39-inch rubber hoop mounted to some PVC pipe. Before releasing his ball, he has to maneuver around his brother, Alex, a former Burroughs High football player armed with a deflated dodgeball.
Alex is “riding” a four-iron.
A quick jog around his brother and Chris is free. His target is wide open, but Mary Beshenich comes at him in a half-sprint, half-trot as she uses her legs to keep her own broomstick in place. She slams into Chris and knocks him off course, forcing him to rein in his arm to clear himself for a better shot.
Again, she checks him. It’s a hard hit, but Chris’ feet are planted. Mary keeps the pressure on with a few more hits. He shoves her away equally as hard.
It may sound harsh, but this is Quidditch, a co-ed full-contact sport with no pads and no holds barred.
“I think [women] take advantage of it,” said Kate Tucci, a player on the Hollywood Harpies, the largest club in Los Angeles. “I’ll just body-check you and score.”
The strategy works, especially when playing men who are Quidditch rookies.
“I never thought I’d hit a girl, but a couple games in and they didn’t care,” said Alex, a former tackle at Burroughs High School.
He and the other three players met Monday morning at Whitnall Highway Park South for a quick practice and some drills. Chris is trying to start a team that would encompass Burbank and North Hollywood. He met Mary and Kate while playing for the Harpies.
“I feel we could get a couple more teams around here,” Chris said. “I’m trying to start this team, but right now it’s just me.”
Players usually discover Quidditch in one of two ways: They’re fans of the Harry Potter franchise in which it originated, or they played more traditional sports in high school or college and take up Quidditch in the off-season.
Often, it makes for a playfully volatile dynamic between people like Kate who love J.K. Rowling’s books and movies, and those like Alex who wanted to play something besides football.
“Even though I’d be there for half the touchdowns I never got credit,” he said. As a Quidditch chaser, “you have the ball, the points, in your hand. I’d get the ball and go for it.”
Over the last decade, Quidditch has grown into an international game and includes its own governing body that sets the rules. In the Harry Potter books it’s played on flying broomsticks, and physics aside it’s probably for the best because Whitnall Park is surrounded by power lines.
Each team guards three hoops set 48 yards apart. According to the International Quidditch Assn., three chasers score points by putting the quaffle (volleyball) through the hoops, which are guarded by a keeper or goalie. Two beaters can toss bludgers (dodge balls) at other players to knock them out of play. Each team also has a seeker, who runs after a snitch — a person with a tennis ball inside a sock at his or her waist.
Once the snitch is caught, the game is over.
Sound complicated? It’s basically the brutality of rugby combined with the dexterity of lacrosse (you try catching and throwing a volleyball with one hand) and the sprint/stop pace of a soccer match.
“When I tell people I play Quidditch, they laugh a little bit,” Chris said. “Most who laugh probably haven’t seen an actual game — they don’t know how difficult it is.”
If you think you’ve got the guts and the broomstick to play, contact Chris at email@example.com for practice schedules.