Throughout my childhood, some of my most cherished memories stem from the wizarding world of Harry Potter. When I arrived at UNC my love for Harry Potter was revived by the newfound knowledge of Quidditch as a recognized club sport on campus. While I had no interest in playing, my familiarity with the imaginary sport sparked some questions that I could not shake. Additionally, the attitude of my contemporaries towards the club was puzzling in that it was mostly looked down upon as a competitive sport and regarded as cosplay. I too began to harbor these biases of the UNC Club Quidditch team; assuming that all the players would be of the studious, unathletic, mega-fan persona. What I found, however, was a cohesive group of socially involved athletes who could only be accurately described as being mild fans. This realization brought the question: how does fan culture surrounding Harry Potter affect the game play, team comradery, and misconceptions held by outsiders regarding the UNC Club Quidditch team, to the forefront of my attention.
II. Background Information
Since its creation, the UNC club quidditch team has struggled to be recognized as a nationally competitive club sport as opposed to a fan club. Quidditch is a multidimensional sport consisting of essentially three main games (Hancock, 2017, p. 5). Although mentally and physically challenging, the team has been unable to shake the outward appearance of a social group, regardless of their success as a sports club. A large majority of the UNC campus still regards the team and its members as fans engaging in cosplay. To the team members’ knowledge, many students still believe that they play wearing costumes and patronize the team by posing questions such as: “oh they don’t fly?”
With all the scrutiny produced by their peers, it is difficult to imagine why the athletes continue to engage in the less than accepted sport. However, psychology may hold the answer. It is largely seen that college students who participate in organized groups, such as club sports, with a connection to his or her campus experience a sense of community that defines their niche and purpose in the campus population (Warner, 2013, p. 283). Additionally, being a part of a group of students that share a common interest further promotes a creative outlet for students to learn, share, and create while simultaneously producing an audience for the product of inspiration (Curwood, 2013, p. 83).
III. Observations and Analysis
First Observation: Thursday, February 27, 2020 7:50 p.m. – 8:45 p.m.
As I enter the Indoor Practice Facility on the south side of campus, my eye is drawn to a large group of seemingly incompatible students sitting in a tight huddle near the garage doors that make up the far wall of the building. Murmurs fill the air as my watch ticks to 8:00 p.m., the team’s designated practice time. The minutes continue to tick away, but the group remains put, pulled together by the gravity of their social encounters. When eleven minutes have come and gone, a few individuals defy gravity and begin to set up the field for practice, followed by their teammates. The tendency of the team to delay the start of practice in order to continue to engage in social interactions suggests to me that the team is more socially driven than competitively driven.
The incompatible students blossom into a cohesive whole as the practice progresses. The team warms up, performs drills, and participates in scrimmages similar to every other team-oriented sport. Throughout the entirety of the practice no reference to Harry Potter was made. The absence of Harry Potter paraphernalia and absence of reference to the series suggests that the current team is not driven by fandom.
Second Observation: Monday, March 2, 2020 8:00 p.m. – 8:47 p.m.
Same as before, I am welcomed into the Indoor Practice Facility by the sight of the team clustered together engaging in trivial conversation. However, this time I am verbally greeted by the team captain, Madison, who had originally regarded my interest in her team for this study with hesitation due to fear that I would treat the team with condescension and biased. This defensiveness suggests to me that the team feels that their sport is underappreciated on campus. Regardless, once my intentions were witnessed and clear, Madison provided helpful insight to the team.
As we spoke in a conversational fashion, Madison detailed to me her experience having been a member of the team for four years. Her testimony was filled with trials and tribulations her and her teammates had faced with gaining recognition for their accomplishments and as a nationally competitive, full tackle, co-ed sport. Although her frustrations were clearly difficult to overcome, she always reverted to explaining how the support of her teammates and the social aspects of the team provide a reason to keep playing. Her tone and word choice also suggest to me that the misconceptions the rest of the campus hold against the quidditch team is another key motivator for them to do well and another driving factor behind their close-knit relationships.
My time spent observing and interacting with the UNC Club Quidditch team provided lots of insight as to how team and social dynamics are affected by the biases surrounding fan culture pertaining to Harry Potter. My initial assumptions about the severity of the sport and the characterization of the athletes could not have been further from the truth. The quidditch team is highly motivated by how they think the campus sees them which further drives their competitive spirits and their social cohesiveness. Through my observations, I found that my research question failed to address the way diversity within the team effects both social and physical aspects of the team. In the future, my research could help better understand the phenomena of oppressed individuals with a common interest banding together to become a cohesive unit in order to fight the oppressive force.
Curwood, J. S. (2013). Fan fiction, remix culture, and the Potter games. In V. E. Frankel (Ed.),
Teaching with Harry Potter: Essays on Classroom Wizardry from Elementary School to
College (pp. 81–90). McFarland. https://s3.amazonaws.com/academia.edu.documents/36701308/Curwood_-_Fan_Fiction_and_Remix_Culture.pdf?response-content-disposition=inline%3B%20filename%3DFan_fiction_remix_culture_and_The_Potter.pdf&X-Amz-Algorithm=AWS4-HMAC-SHA256&X-Amz-Credential=AKIAIWOWYYGZ2Y53UL3A%2F20200223%2Fus-east-1%2Fs3%2Faws4_request&X-Amz-Date=20200223T211742Z&X-Amz-Expires=3600&X-Amz-SignedHeaders=host&X-Amz-Signature=d0bb23dcff8de15fa89ac4bb2356a8b6a34d18bb16a2e460ea31d17d185c6ee
Hancock, J. (2017). Quidditch team seeks recognition. The Daily Tar Heel.
Warner, S., & Dixon, M. (2013). Sports and Community on Campus. Journal of College Student
Development, 54(3) (pp. 283-298). https://muse.jhu.edu/article/508981.