Catching the snitch: Quidditch at UCLA

Quidditch, the sport from the "Harry Potter" book and movie franchise has been taken from the page to the pitch and the UCLA Quidditch brings the sport to Westwood.

On first sight the game looks similar to what is presented in the film adaptation of J.K. Rowling's magical epic.

Two teams with seven players take the pitch. Each team sends out three chasers who attempt to score the quaffle through one of three goals, two beaters, who attempt to stop the chasers by pounding them with bludgers, a keeper, who protects the goals; and the seeker, who attempts to catch the snitch.

In place of Rowling's sentient, flying golden ball, the seekers attempt to steal a tennis ball tied to the back of a player dressed in highlighter yellow.

To compensate for this vertical challenge, all players must keep a broom between their legs when they are in play.

Running with a broom between your legs is awkward, at first. Fortunately, no one who attended the UCLA Quidditch Program's open practice on April 11 crashed and burned.

Before attending the the practice, I had my doubts about the athletic nature of a game lifted from a book about wizards. Not alone in my skepticism UCLA student and former track and field runner at Montebello High School Justin Raya did not expect the game to be so exciting.

"I thought it was going to be really chill. But once you get the hang of it...the energy of competition comes through," Raya said after practice.

For SMC student Jasmine Jafari, Quidditch gave her a chance to fight back against a disease that put her on the sidelines of life.

Normally referred to in these pages as Inter-Club Council Chair, Jafari is a member of the UCLA Quidditch program's junior varsity team, the Wizards of Westwood.

Jafari has battled asthma and other respiratory problems since she was 14. In her junior year of high school she was told by doctors to cut out all cardiovascular exercise or risk suffering pneumothorax, a collapsed lung.

Due to her respiratory problems, she was forced to give up one of her hobbies, running.

It was not until this summer that Jafari was put on experimental drugs and vaporized steroids, that doctors cleared her to reintroduce her body to cardio exercise.

At first she attended practices to watch, then, due to Quidditch's free substitution rules which mirror hockey, she inserted herself into action for 10-15 seconds at a time.

At first, her muscle memory was gone, but as her participation in practices increased, her athleticism returned. Just like riding a broom.

After what Jafari called, "three months of paperwork hell" and a cost of $300, she was allowed to officially join the program.

She stayed through both the physical and bureaucratic process for the same reason most athletes stick with their sport. "It is something that made me really happy and it allowed me to leave the stress of the whole week behind," Jafari said.

The sport, in a refreshing change of pace, does not take itself too seriously. The first rule that UCLA Quidditch President Brennan Ross laid down was, "Don't be an asshole."

There is an international ruling body called the International Quidditch Association, and every year a Quidditch World Cup is held by the IQA.

So, maybe one day, there will be a statue of a Quidditch coach placed next to the one of John Wooden.

Until then, Quidditch will leave everyone else who tries it panting like a dog in the Mojave.