A mess of dodgeballs and volleyballs fly across a field of grass at Cheesman Park. Two teams of five-on-five run toward three standing goals — poles with circles taped to the top. Each runner holds a piece of pipe, around two feet in length, between their legs as if they are flying on a broom.
And, in a sense, they are.
The Mile High Quidditch Club (MHQC) is the Colorado-based team that plays the sport based on J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series. The rules for real-life quidditch were first developed in 2005. Two years later, the United States Quidditch Association was formed.
One aspect Brandon Nhean loves about the sport is the diversity of people who come to play. Some of the original players were drawn to quidditch because of their love of the books, but that’s not the case anymore.
“You have people who were fans who started playing,” said Nhean, who began playing quidditch six years ago, “and people who played sports.”
In the decade since the game was founded in the “muggle” world — which for non-Potter fans means humans — quidditch has become more streamlined, and even has rule books like any other official sport, said Alex Bihlmeyer, head of the MHQC.
The Colorado team’s goal is to get enough players to participate in regional tournaments, such as the upcoming Blue Jay Classic Quidditch tournament in Omaha, Nebraska, in October. If teams compete in three tournaments, they can move on to playing in the U.S. Quidditch Cup, which is held in Texas. The 2018 event was held in April in Round Rock.
“If people are willing to make that commute and that commitment, we can play on tournaments together,” Bihlmeyer said.
The team practices on Sundays at Cheesman Park, but will start practicing twice a week if it can recruit 14 players, Bihlmeyer said. At a practice in early August, just four players showed up. At others, as many as 11 come.
The MHQC is built on the foundation of the Denver Dementors, a team that started in 2011. Bihlmeyer, a former Dementor, said the team wanted a more inclusive name since players drive to the weekly practices at Cheesman Park from as far as Colorado Springs and Grand Junction.
Denver natives Nhean and Devaughn Gamlin started playing together while attending the University of Northern Colorado in Greeley.
Gamlin said his dream is to eventually play in a World Cup event. Instead of playing tournaments on a local team, Gamlin turned to the Fighting Farmers, made up of quidditch players throughout the west who cannot find local teams. The team does not hold weekly practices since many of the players don’t live in the same area. Gamlin calls it the “pick-up all-star team,” but the drawback is players have not played together before, making strategy all but impossible.
For Gamlin, strategy is one of the best parts of the game.
“Games can get tactical,” he said. “You have to use your brain.”
Because Colorado is such a large state, Gamlin said it can be difficult to reach out to players and build a team that’s interested in more than just pickup games every so often. But the work is worth it as Gamlin plays in a Sunday scrimmage, coaching other people on the finer points of the game.
“Keeping numbers around is tough,” he said. “It’s been hard, but it’s been awesome.”
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