My hands were shaking as I slipped on my first pair of cleats.
My roommate laughed as she noticed my nervousness. I couldn’t help but laugh with her. Why was I so nervous about doing something as simple as playing a sport?
As with most writers and creatives, I’d never considered myself an athlete. The thought of any ball flying towards my face was absolutely terrifying. In fact, I had never been an official member of any sports team in my life. However, I decided that my freshman year of college would be a year of change, one of those changes being improving my physical health. I lacked motivation to work out in high school and I knew the same would end up happening in college, so I decided to force myself to exercise by joining an official sport club.
Which sport did I decide to join, you might ask? None other than the full-contact, tackling-encouraged, volleyballs-constantly-flying-towards-faces game known as Quidditch.
You may be shocked to read “full contact” and “Quidditch” in the same sentence. I certainly was upon showing up to my first practice. Despite popular belief, Quidditch isn’t simply a group of Harry Potter fans passing a ball around. It takes strategy, concentration, physical conditioning, and dedication to be a good player.
To break it down, a game of Quidditch consists of seven players on each team: three chasers, two beaters, one keeper, and one seeker. The chasers (my position!) attempt to move a volleyball (called a quaffle) across the field and score a goal. The keeper acts as a goalie, beaters knock out opposing teams’ players using dodgeballs (called bludgers), and the seeker attempts to tag a person wearing gold shorts (the snitch) in order to score extra points for their team. The game is unique not only because it originated from a fictional book series but also because it’s one of the few sports with a gender diversity rule. Only four players on the field at one time can identify as the same gender, meaning that female and non-binary players are needed to play Quidditch.
This rule reassured me as I showed up to my first practice. I told myself that even if I was the weakest link, I could still be useful in at least allowing our team to play officially. However, as my skills and confidence improved, I started to notice that male-identifying players passed to female players much less than their male counterparts. Our first few practices had a strong, unspoken divide between male and female players. However, as we’ve continued to play together, I’ve slowly started to notice that divide diminishing. For example, during our most recent tournament, I scored our first goal after one of the male-identifying players passed the quaffle to me. He talked to me after about how successful the play was. His comments boosted my self-confidence, and our continued teamwork helped us win the rest of the game.
I think Quidditch has taught me and my team members more about successfully working together with people of different physical ability and gender identity. After noticing that we play best when everyone is equally involved, my team’s ability has greatly improved. Despite the fact that it usually takes me a few more tries to get what comes easily to everyone else, I’m constantly reassured by the support of my team that my skills will improve with training and time.
I think that mixed-gender sports should be more popular because they encourage successful teamwork between people of different gender identities. The males, females, and non-binary members of my team see each other as equals, which motivates me to come back to practice every week. I am no longer insecure but instead confident in my abilities to work with others. I’m excited to see how I continue to improve, and encourage any non-athletic readers to not be afraid of taking up a sport—not only will it allow you to feel healthier, but it may also foster positive relationships with others whom you hadn’t been entirely comfortable around before.