Nightmares Dream of Growing Quidditch Team
Nightmares Dream of Growing Quidditch Team


by Mark Drozdowski
Director of University Communications

There are no capes. There are no cardigans emblazoned with house crests. And there is definitely no flying.

This, you see, is how muggles play quidditch.

Harry Potter fans might recognize familiar names associated with the sport—quaffle, bludger, seeker, snitch—yet this gravity-bound version bears little resemblance to the game played at Hogwarts.

But don’t tell the New Haven Nightmares it’s not real quidditch.

On a windy Saturday afternoon on North Field, an uneven patch of grass behind ShopRite, the Nightmares are practicing the sport that has taken college campuses by storm. They stretch, run drills and bean each other with rubber balls.


Members of the Nightmares

The scene is part dodgeball, part rugby and, to the untrained eye, random chaos orchestrated by eager combatants racing around with brooms between their legs.

“The camaraderie on the team is amazing,” said chaser captain Daria LeGall ’16, a forensic science major from Brooklyn, N.Y. “We’re just a bunch of students who want to play a sport from a book we all love. Some kids are really athletic, and some aren’t at all, but we just want to have fun.”

Quidditch began in 2005 on the Middlebury College campus, where a few friends started messing around with towels as capes and lamp stems as brooms. Today, the U.S. Quidditch Association, based in Charlotte, N.C., represents 4,000 athletes on 200 teams nationwide. The International Quidditch Association claims to govern more than 300 teams in 20 countries. There’s even a tamer version for youth called kidditch. Last year, the U.S. association held its eighth World Cup, won by the University of Texas for the third straight year. According to the association’s website, the event was viewed on Snapchat by hundreds of millions of people worldwide.

At UNH, quidditch began just before LeGall arrived on campus.

“A group of students realized that quidditch was on the rise as a college sport,” she said, “and they wanted a team too.”

The Nightmares soon because official members of the U.S. Quidditch Association and began competing in matches and tournaments. The team is classified as a “recognized student organization,” not as a club sport. They do receive money from the University, but the cost of association dues forced the team to abandon membership for this year. They hope to regain that status next year and rejoin the Big Apple Quidditch Conference, which features teams such as Hofstra, Rutgers, the Horntailed Horcruxes and the New York Badassilisks.

“We’re a young team, so we’re focused on getting everyone up to speed,” LeGall said. “Next year we want to have a tournament on campus. That’s our ultimate goal.”

Meanwhile, they practice each weekend on North Field or Kayo Field, trotting out their makeshift wagon of balls, hoops and sticks, which don’t include the broom part. Brooms and other accessories, along with team apparel, can be purchased through retailers such as PetersonsBrooms.com, which specializes in quidditch equipment.

The rules are fairly straightforward. Three hoops are set up on each side about 30 yards apart, with seven players per team. Three chasers score goals with a volleyball called the quaffle. They move the ball down the field by running with it, passing it or kicking it. Each side has a keeper defending the hoops. Goals are worth 10 points. Two beaters use bludgers (dodgeballs) to distract and disorient opposing players by pegging them at close range.

Each side also fields a seeker who tries to catch the snitch. The snitch is a ball that hangs in a sack off the rear waistband of the snitch runner, who is clad in a yellow uniform. Capturing the snitch earns the team 30 points and ends the game. If the score is tied, the game continues into overtime.

A typical game lasts 20-25 minutes, and is exhausting. Action is nonstop. And play is physical, with lots of shoving, checking and elbowing. Injuries are therefore commonplace in this full-contact sport. Landing wrong with a broom between one’s legs can cause particular discomfort. No protective gear other than a mouthguard is worn. 

“Your body is your armor,” said Danny Iacono ’18 a marine biology major from Mountville, Penn. He was a seeker last year and now serves as snitch runner.

The game’s physicality is especially noteworthy in light of the requirement that each team must have a maximum of four players who “identify as the same gender.” This means, of course, that teams are co-ed. In fact, the U.S. Quidditch Association takes great pride in promoting gender equality and integration, going so far as to establish a “Title 9 ¾” which extends the gender rights established in Title IX by requiring co-ed participation and recognizing trans individuals who “do not identify with the binary gender system.”

Above all, the sport aims to create a competitive yet welcoming athletic endeavor for players of all abilities. The Nightmares share this message with UNH students at fall recruitment fairs, decorating their table with team jerseys and brooms.

“We’re trying to get our name out there and build our roster,” said keeper Dennis Benjamin ’16 a biochemistry major from Rosedale, N.Y., and the team’s captain. “I heard about it through a friend and said, ‘Oh, that Harry Potter thing? Sure.’”

LaGall said she’s amazed by how quickly quidditch has become a real collegiate sport.

“At first it was just a bunch of goofy kids on brooms,” she said, “but now it’s a lot more than that.”

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