First invented in the brain of Harry Potter author J.K. Rowling, quidditch – the game of flying brooms and little gold spheres travelling at the speed of light – started off as a fictional sport for obvious reasons – gravity, for one. But leave it to a group of devoted Hogwarts fans to reinvent the game for muggle athletes (muggle being the wizard word for human). Today, over 300 university teams all over the world compete in matches and tournaments, including this weekend'sQuidditch World Cup in New York. For the uninitiated, we offer some tips on how to master the game of wizards with zero magic required.
Learn the rules before you board the broom
Muggle quidditch borrows elements from two familiar games – basketball and dodge ball, but that's just the beginning, so you'd be wise to spend some time going over the basics before hopping on that wizard stick. "It can take a while to get a feel for the game," says Jon Cohen, captain of the McGill quidditch team, which is Canadian champion and will compete in the Worlds this weekend. The Coles notes are as follows: Opposing teams compete with two aims in mind: to score goals, which means putting the ball through one of three hoops on the opposing side of the field; to capture the Golden Snitch (in the Muggle version this is a person running around dressed in gold with a ball hanging off his back). Each goal is worth 10 points. Capturing the Snitch is worth 30 points and ends the game on the spot. Meanwhile there are Keepers (goalies), Chasers (offensive players), Beaters (defensive players) and Seekers (players trying to catch the Snitch). Oh, and all players must keep a broom between their legs at all times. You can see how it might get a little confusing.
Train off the field
Like soccer or rugby, quidditch is a physically demanding sport that requires serious cardio-endurance. "We spend a lot of time on conditioning, building strength and endurance," says Mr. Cohen, who agrees the game will be a tough go for newbies who think watching Harry Potter movies counts as proper preparation. Running, regular gym visits and a relatively healthy diet are all going to help your on-the-field abilities. That said, quidditch is largely a university sport, which means keg parties are often part of the drill. "The main thing is to show up to practice the next morning," says Mr. Cohen of players who may have gone straight from the frat house to the field. Of course there won't be any such revelry before the big game this weekend: "We're all travelling together, staying in the same hotel and everyone is going to bed when we get there."
Try all positions and don't forget about the team mentality
Those new to the game often have preconceived notions about which position they want to play, but Mr. Cohen advises trying out different roles anyway. "The game is so unique that you really don't know until you experiment. A lot of people want to be Chasers because that's a very physical role, but maybe you've got a great sense of aim, in which case you'd do well as a Beater." Then, regardless of what position you end up playing, don't forget that even Harry Potter didn't get there alone. "On the field, communication and passing are probably the key components of a winning team," says Mr. Cohen. "Of course you have guys who want the glory, we call that the one-man army, and it doesn't tend to work out as well."
Wear the proper protection
While not quite as death-defying as the wizard version, muggle quidditch is a contact sport and the potential for injury is high without the proper protection (competitive players wear padding). This is particularly important for male muggles, given the whole broomstick-between-the-legs thing. "I see guys playing without a cup and I can't believe it," says Mr. Cohen. "I mean, they are running around with a wooden rod between their legs."
Don't do this: Get burned for un-wizardlike conduct. According to the official rulebook, profanity and lewd gestures are grounds for removal.