Logo: University of Southern California

Lord of Quidditch

Computer science student Nicky Guangorena programs and plays
by: Katie McKissick
April 02, 2014 —
Guangorena wields his quidditch broomstick proudly.

Not many sports require players to have a broom between their legs at all times, but quidditch isn’t your average sport.

On the USC quidditch team, players wear white jerseys with red stripes and the USC quidditch emblem. Often spotted in cardinal and gold knee socks, the team members race between two sets of lofted hoops throwing the quaffle and bludgers, the balls of the game, aiming for the hoops or opposing players.

Based on the game from the Harry Potter book series, quidditch is a full-contact, fast-moving sport that blends elements from soccer, dodge ball and basketball.

Nicky Guangorena is one of the co-captains of the USC quidditch team. A sophomore in computer science, he balances his studies and the sport he has come to love since he started playing it in high school.

Guangorena, 19, not only enjoys the physicality of the sport, but also likes the challenge of devising plays and strategies on the field, which he finds draws on his work as a computer science student.

“You always have to account for all the possibilities and variables that are going on in the middle of a play,” Guangorena said. “The analytic work that I do in computer science where I have to look at a piece of code to see if there are going to be issues with it and debug it, in a sense is sort of like looking at a play and seeing how it’s all going to work and whether or not somebody from the other team can mess it up by doing a single clever move or by being in the wrong place at the wrong time. So you always have to account for all these variables and try to mix it up and keep it working. Try to keep your plays moving in the same way you have to keep your code working.”

Quidditch is unique in that it is the only full-contact coed sport at USC. Guangorena, who played baseball, soccer and basketball before Quidditch, likes the team atmosphere that comes from a mixed-gender sport. “It makes you respect everyone as a person, a player. They’re equal. You’re all doing the same sport—you’re all playing the game.”

While the sport is based on a series of adored fantasy books, quidditch has become a sport that stands on its own two legs (and broom, as it were). Players love quidditch apart from their love for Harry Potter and want it to be seen as a stand-alone sport. Since it was adopted in 2005 at Middlebury College in Vermont, it has spread to 300 universities and high schools throughout North America, Australia and Europe. The governing body, the International Quidditch Association, today hosts nine regional championships, the World Cup, International Open, Global Games and QuidCon.

The USC quidditch team was founded in 2010, and since then has competed in the World Cup in 2011 and 2013, and will again in 2014.

Quidditch Rules for Muggles:

  • Each team has seven players on the field at one time: three chasers, two beaters, one keeper and one seeker.
  • The chasers handle a ball called the quaffle, which is usually a partially deflated volleyball. The chasers’ goal is to throw the quaffle through one of the three elevated hoops at either end of the field.
  • Beaters handle bludgers, which are essentially dodge balls. Beaters try to strike the opposing team’s chasers with them. When chasers are hit with a bludger, they must return to their end of the field before they are considered in play again. This is an effective way to stop them from scoring points.
  • The keeper is the goalie and protects the three hoops from the onslaught of the chasers.
  • The seeker is in charge of capturing the golden snitch. In the Harry Potter world of magic, the snitch is a golden ball with delicate wings that flies quickly and unpredictably around the field. In “muggle,” or magic-free, Quidditch, the golden snitch is played by a person. This impartial player has a tennis ball in a sock tied to his or her waist. When a seeker retrieves that ball from the snitch, the game is over.