by Allyson Burton | January 2nd, 2013
Just as the rules and athletic aspects of quidditch are constantly evolving, so is quidditch equipment. Unlike the equipment used in other sports, it is not possible to buy ready-made hoops, brooms and snitch shorts at a local sporting goods store. Therefore, it is up to teams to construct their own equipment from available resources or purchase them from other players with the necessary tools. The following descriptions of equipment are just a few examples of the many designs used by teams across the globe.
Mike Wark of Carleton University (Ottawa, ON) goes for a shot on plywood-base hoops defended by Algonqin College (Ottawa, ON.) Photo credit: Tegan Bridge
Kevin Peterson, a student and former quidditch equipment manager at the University of Texas (Austin, TX) summed up the mentality of those wishing to make their own hoops by saying, “You use what you have access to and do what you’re able to.” Luckily for quidditch teams in the Southwest, Peterson has the space, tools and knowledge necessary to construct custom hoops that have been adopted throughout much of the region. Peterson’s design consists of a plywood base, a polyvinyl chloride (PVC) pipe pole and black polyethylene pipe for the hoop. A full set of hoops takes him about four to six hours to build. Perhaps the most convenient aspect of his design is the handles on the bases, which allow for easy transport to and from practices. Although wooden bases may not be as sturdy as other materials, players are less likely to trip over them. However, while the wood is fairly inexpensive, it is more susceptible to rainy weather unless protected by special coating.
Another popular design involves using cement-filled buckets for bases. Many Canadian teams use this design, which provides an extremely sturdy base that is practically immovable during games. However, they are also extremely difficult to transport, a major problem for teams lacking storage space near their practice sites.
Rebecca Alley, Vice President of Athletics and Equipment for her team at the University of Ottawa (Ottawa, ON,) described her experience with cement blocks for bases.
“We started stashing them in the bushes behind our field, then they froze in the ground,” says Alley. After using a crowbar, hammer, and tea kettles full of hot water, the team eventually chipped through the permafrost to reach the bases.
This past summer, Alley helped build square PVC pipe bases, gluing all of the joints but one to provide drainage for any water that might leak through. The PVC pipe base design has worked well for her team, as they are moderately sturdy, depending on the configuration, and the pipe itself is relatively inexpensive. However, it can be easy to lose some of the pieces and the fittings used to connect the pieces together can be costly.
Tegan Bridge, IQA Canadian Regional Director and member the of University of Ottawa team, with PVC hoops. Photo credit: Tegan Bridge
Following the makeshift spirit of many teams, lots of first-time quidditch players use whatever broom-like object they can find. These include such items as mops and golf clubs with the ends removed.
“Last year, a guy used a hockey stick,” recalls Alley. Some teams allow individual players to decide what they wish to use for a broom, while others adopt a standard broom for the entire team, such as the Shadow Chaser, the official broom of the IQA. After a few months of using dollar store brooms, the University of Arkansas – Fort Smith has adopted a common broom type.
“We use PVC pipes with tennis balls attached to the end. They are cost-effective and sturdy,” says UAFS team captain Josiah Gorham.
A UAFS player with a tennis ball broom. Photo credit: Josiah Gorham.
With so much room for improvisation of materials, standardization can be difficult. A major proponent of standardizing quidditch equipment is Quiyk, an athletic apparel company founded and operated by Eric Wahl and Matt Lowe of Boston, MA. In addition to creating custom uniforms, they have produced a set of snitch shorts that use industrial grade velco, allowing for more standardized snitch and seeker play. Quiyk launched at World Cup V in November 2011 in New York City with the goal of standardizing and legitimizing the sport, and has since provided custom-made jerseys for teams throughout the league as well as for the American, Australian, French, and British national teams at this past summer’s Olympic exhibition.
There are many challenges for teams wishing to conform to standardized equipment, especially hoops. Lack of storage space can be a major issue, forcing most teams to store them as best they can, whether they divide equipment up into different dorm rooms or store them in their own backyards. If someone does not have a car to store and transport equipment, it can require lots of team members to carry the balls, hoops and brooms to and from practice. Another obstacle for many teams is lack of access to construction tools. University students make up the majority of quidditch players, and it can sometimes be difficult to find someone that has the tools needed to construct hoops. On the subject of standardized hoops, Alley adds, “I think it’s good, but I like that there are options for schools.”
The difference in diameter caused by the use of different materials is another cause for moving towards a standardized model.
“If the hoop varies, it also affects gameplay because some schools use small plastic hoops and others use hula hoops,” says Gorham.
The variety of equipment designs created over the sport’s lifetime is a prime example of the ingenuity and creativity that defines quidditch itself. As the sport develops, it is more likely that a standard design will be adopted, but there is still a lot of room for inventiveness. As more quidditch teams are established, it will be even easier to find a working model and implement it in team practices and tournament play. Perhaps one day it will be possible to walk into a sporting goods store and purchase a full set of hoops. In the meantime, there is still plenty of room for imagination and innovation.