From the pages to the playing field: How sports like Quidditch are helping relieve college worries

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The definition of “springtime” can change depending on what month you’re in. We know that April showers bring May flowers, but before those April storms arrive, college basketball players are ‘making it rain’ for March Madness.

There are more than 35,000 college basketball players in the U.S. alone, contributing to the more than 480,000 NCAA athletes competing at the collegiate level.

Adding to those numbers next year are Carl Junction’s Katie Scott and Carthage’s Kale Schrader along with the dozens of high school football players who committed to colleges and universities on National Signing Day.

Carl Junction senior Katie Scott will lace up for the Drury Lady Pathers basketball team next season

There are thousands of high school athletes in the Four States, and with the growing trend of sports like archery to local athletic programs, those numbers are expected to grow exponentially.

However, with the immense level of skills combined with the drive to gain the attention of college recruiters, playing at the next level isn’t in the cards for millions of high school athletes in the United States.

The NCAA reports that out of nearly 8 million high school athletes, only six percent will be recruited to play at the next level.

But, for the college-bound athletes who are not recruited, it doesn’t mean that they must close the door on team sports forever. Many colleges and universities offer intramural sports, which provide a way for students to maintain their competitive edge, stay active, and make friends.

On Missouri Southern’s campus, that story is no different. MSSU Intramurals offers an array of single-sex and co-ed sports like basketball and volleyball, to even more unique pastimes like minigolf, raquetball — even ping-pong.

“We feel like the more they’re involved and the more they feel like they’re a part of something, they’re more likely to stay, graduate and be successful students,” explained Steven Benfield, Director of MSSU Campus Recreation. “That was our number-one goal, and this is a fun way of doing it.”

Two teams competed in MSSU’s intramural quidditch tournament, including Team Voldemort (pictured)

Friday, MOSO Intramurals took things a step further with its timely take on the university-wide celebration of Harry Potter Week. The department hosted its first-ever Quidditch tournament, a sport made famous by J.K. Rowling’s wizarding series.

“Intramurals are basically a variety of activities throughout the semester. This one is in conjunction with HPW,” Benfield added. “We did something a little unique and added quidditch, which is not a typical sport that we usually offer.”

They may not have levitated, but players did fly from one end of Fred G. Hughes Stadium to the other — running as fast as they could with a broomstick between their legs.

There were bludgers (dodgeballs) thrown left and right by each team’s beaters — with their goal to prevent the other team’s chasers to score with the quaffle (a volleyball). At either end of the field were three scoring hoops, protected by keepers.

The “Quaffle” — A slightly deflated volleyball that makes it easier to throw
Scoring Hoops

Although throwing the quaffle through whichever hoop grants a team ten points, the ultimate goal is to catch the snitch — a tennis ball attached to the waistband of a snitch runner. The snitch runner is a neutral athlete that uses all means necessary to avoid being captured.

Once the snitch is caught, the game is over the team that captured it is awarded 30 points. The team with the highest total points is crowned the winner.

Each round starts like a game of dodgeball — both teams racing to the centerline

Two teams competed, some players being off-season athletes, some Harry Potter fanatics, and others who wanted to get involved.

“This is such a unique sport. It’s a little intimidating but once you start playing, especially if you just have a little competitive drive, then you really get into quickly and I think they had a lot of fun,” said Benfield.

We may not live in a world where we can cast spells with wands made of phoenix feathers or are placed into one of the four Houses by the Sorting Hat (as far we know!).

But, that does not mean we are not pitted up in our own Defense Against the Dark Arts.

Along with the stresses of mid-terms and finals, many college-age students face financial issues, food insecurity, homelessness, and struggles with identity.

Benfield says that although the stresses mid-terms can weigh heavily on MSSU students, picking up a basketball, racquet — or in Friday’s case, a broomstick — can make a world of difference for students.

“Our number-one goal is to get students connected and engaged on campus, so through a variety of activities but today with quidditch,” explained Benfield. “It’s just so they feel like they’re a part of something and they can have fun. It’s not always about winning or losing — it’s just trying to get them involved.

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