The Wizard’s Ball: Concord graduate wins title in Major League Quidditch

  • Concord’s Ian Scura grips the quaffle and looks for an opening at the Major League Quidditch Championships in Richmond, Va. Scura plays for the Boston Night Riders, who beat the Austin Outlaws in the finals on Sunday to claim the title. Quidditch was introduced in the Harry Potter books and first played in at Middlebury College in Vermont in 2005. Scura saw his brother Ryan play quidditch for Middlebury in 2007 and joined the Middlebury team himself as a freshman at the school in 2015.  Courtesy

  • Concord’s Ian Scura holds the trophy after winning the Major League Quidditch Championships in Richmond, Va. Scura plays for the Boston Night Riders, who beat the Austin Outlaws in the finals on Sunday to claim the title. Quidditch was introduced in the “Harry Potter” books and first played in at Middlebury College in Vermont in 2005. Scura saw his brother Ryan play quidditch for Middlebury in 2007 and joined the Middlebury team himself in 2015. Courtesy

  • Players from Italy, left, and Belgium fight for the ball during a match of the Quidditch World Championhips in Frankfurt, Germany, Sunday, July 24, 2016. AP file

  • Players from the United States, right, and Catalonia challenge for the ball during a match of the Quidditch World Championhips in Frankfurt, Germany, Sunday, July 24, 2016. AP file

  • The University of Ottawa Quidditch team's Marilyn Tourangeau takes a shot at the goal while warming up before a scrimmage against the Silicon Valley Skrewts at the Quidditch World Cup in Kissimmee, Fla., Friday, April 12, 2013. AP file

  • Members of the University of Ottawa Quidditch team grab a broom for a scrimmage against the Silicon Valley Skrewts at the Quidditch World Cup in Kissimmee, Fla., in 2013. Quidditch is a game born within the pages of “Harry Potter” novels, but in recent years it's become a real-life sport. AP file

Monitor staff
Published: 8/13/2019 10:38:28 PM

The sport is a mashup of rugby, basketball and dodgeball. It’s played in 40 countries. There’s a World Cup every two years, a U.S. National team, an American major league with teams from Boston to San Antonio and more than 150 college and club teams.

It’s also a sport played with balls called quaffles, bludgers and snitches. A sport where the athletes pretend to be riding flying broomsticks and the original rules were fiction, part of the wizarding world of Harry Potter. Some of you knew at the mention of a quaffle, but for those who don’t know, the sport is quidditch.

“There’s definitely a mentality that yeah, we’re here to have fun, this is really goofy and ridiculous, but also we’re here to win,” Concord’s Ian Scura said, “and I think that’s how we got a championship this year.”

Scura, who graduated from Concord High in 2015, plays for the Boston Night Riders, who won the Major League Quidditch championship on Sunday in Richmond, Va. He’s also been practicing with U.S. National Team and plays for Middlebury College, where the sport made its non-fiction debut.

The first quidditch game was played in October 2005 at Middlebury’s Vermont campus. By November, there were seven teams at the school, enough for an intramural scrimmage. Two years later, Middlebury played a team from Vassar in what was considered the first World Cup, and by 2009 there were 21 teams playing in the third World Cup, which drew 2,000 spectators.

Ryan Scura, Ian’s older brother, also went to Middlebury, and quidditch was part of the draw for the Harry Potter fan.

“He even brought a broom with him to school,” Ian said.

Ryan played all four years at Middlebury, from 2008-11, and won four World Cups (Middlebury won every Cup from 2007-13). His parents, Maureen and Mark, planned their trips to Middlebury around quidditch tournaments. And his younger brother Ian was inspired by watching his brother play. After his first trip to Middlebury with his parents, Ian started having quidditch birthday parties.

“I would invite 13 people so we would have two even teams of seven,” Ian said. “The first half of the party would be explaining the rules and the second half we would just play.”

Even if you’re a Harry Potter fan, imagining the rules of real-life quidditch is a challenge. After all, the fictional version is played on flying broomsticks with magically enhanced balls.

There is no flying in the non-fiction version, but all players on the two teams of seven must hold a stick between their legs at all times. They try to throw the quaffle (a volleyball) through their opponents’ goals (three raised rings) to score points. They also throw bludgers (dodgeballs) at their opponent to disrupt the offensive flow, and the game ends when one team catches the snitch (a neutral athlete running around the field trying not to get caught).

A major part of quidditch defense is tackling, or at least trying to tackle, the opposition. Since each person has one hand occupied by a broom stick and the rules prohibit hits to the head and below the knee, and all hits from behind, it’s not as violent as football, but it’s still a full-contact sport. And it’s full contact with men, women and anyone else who wants to play, regardless of how they identify.

“Part of what makes quidditch really interesting is that it is full contact, but it’s also gender-inclusive,” Scura said. “And we really like to use that word because it’s inclusive of transgender athletes, as well.”

When he got to Concord High as a freshman, Scura focused on academics and played soccer, basketball and lacrosse for the Crimson Tide and quidditch slipped into the past. When he started looking at colleges, he didn’t want to go to Middlebury because he didn’t want to follow too closely in his brother’s footsteps, but he visited the school and was taken by the community. Once he started there, he avoided the quidditch team at first as he tried to forge his own identity. But a friend asked him to come to a practice during the second semester of his freshman year, “and I was immediately hooked,” Scura said.

One year later, Scura was trying out for the Night Riders with another member of the Concord High Class of 2015, Nick Dupre.

“He was actually one of my friends who would come to those quidditch parties when we were 10, 11 years old, and he was playing quidditch at college at RPI,” Scura said. “He was going to try out for the Boston team, so I talked to him and decided to go, too.”

Both of them made the team that year and helped the Night Riders reach the semifinals of the 2017 MLQ championships in Madison, Wis., where they lost to the Austin Outlaws. Dupre played all four years at RPI, but he only played for Boston for that one season. Scura came back for more and went to the 2018 MLQ final in Houston with the Night Riders, but again they lost to Austin.

This summer, the Night Riders were focused on taking that last step. They practiced three days a week, went 11-1 during the regular season and went into the championships with a determined hunger.

“We tried to take things one game at a time, but there was definitely talk about Austin being very good this year again, and that they might be the team we’d have to face in the final because they were on the other side of the bracket,” Scura said. “So, there was a little rivalry that had developed and we were talking about trying to beat Austin.”

Sure enough, the Outlaws were waiting in the final. The best-of-three series was tight, but Boston swept to the title with a pair of wins: 140-135 in the first game and 195-160 in the clincher.

It capped a great spring and summer of quidditch for Scura. In April, he helped Middlebury get back to the U.S. Quidditch Cup (known as the World Cup before the sport went international and had a true World Cup) for the first time in eight years. In June, he was selected to the first U.S. National Team Developmental Academy, a squad which practiced against the U.S. National Team prior to the International Quidditch Association Pan-American Games, where the U.S. took home the gold.

“They invited a few college students who they thought weren’t quite good enough to make the National Team, but they thought were still young and developing and could possibly make the National Team in the future,” Scura said.

That’s the goal for Scura, who will graduate from Middlebury after the fall semester. He won’t forget the quidditch birthday parties or the joy of reading the Harry Potter books and seeing the movies, but he wants to take this sport to its highest level.

“Obviously there are a lot of big Harry Potter fans who play, but there are also people who play just for the sport of it,” Scura said. “For me, at this point, I almost think of Harry Potter and quidditch as two separate things.”

(Tim O’Sullivan can be reached at 369-3341 or tosullivan@cmonitor.com or on Twitter @timosullivan20)


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