Swapping pencils for broomsticks

Have you ever dreamed of becoming part of the Wizarding World of Harry Potter? That dream can now become a reality with the help of the Department of Health, Physical Education and Recreation’s Quidditch events.

Through partnering with the on-campus club Exercise is Medicine, HPER is working together to put on the events Knockout November and De-stress December, one of them being Quidditch, a game played by the wizards and witches of J.K. Rowling’s series Harry Potter. Other activities taking place include dodge ball, aqua basketball, simple circuits, Zumba and more.

In their third year, the two events serve as a way to relieve the stresses of finals and the end of the fall semester in fun ways, while also incorporating exercise.

“Exercise has been shown to alleviate stress, improve mood, and increase ability to focus, which should improve students’ academic success during finals week,” Natalie Hearn, senior physical education major, said.

Students from PEP A284, Leadership in Fitness Activities class, are leading the various fitness activities that make up Knockout November and De-stress December.

Hearn, along with physical education major Jordyn Block, is leading the Quidditch event.

“The initiatives are a way to promote physical activity and movement to college students in a fun way during a stressful time of the semester,” Hearn said.

All the events that make up Knockout November and De-stress December are designed to benefit students by giving them non-typical ways of receiving the recommended amount of daily movement in a safe and supportive environment.

The events also serve as a way for students in the physical education program to showcase the leadership skills they learned in class in a hands on way, as they plan to use them in their desired health careers in the future.

Quidditch is a new event this year for Knockout November and De-stress December. Hearn’s experience playing it in one of her leadership classes last semester prompted its addition to the anti-stress related games. Both Hearn and Block are Harry Potter fans, and excited to help turn the widely popular fictional world into a reality for the students of UAA.

“I thought it would be fun to introduce the game to students outside the HPER department,” Hearn said. “Believe it or not, there’s actually a professional United States Quidditch league.”

HPER’s Quidditch follows the rules of the fictional game from the Harry Potter series.

“Minus the flying and magic, it was as close to the actual thing as it could’ve gotten,” Alex Flores, physical education major and participant, said.

During the game, two teams, made up of chasers, seekers and beaters, perform their specific roles and work together to reach the goal of scoring 150 points. This goal can be achieved by either passing the quaffle, or ball, through the target hoops, or by the seeker catching the snitch, in this case a handkerchief. While this is taking place, the beaters are throwing bludgers, or dodge balls, at the chasers in attempt to get them out.

Flores has participated in Quidditch games prior to Knockout November, and thoroughly enjoyed the experience, despite his team’s losses in two of the three rounds.

“We’ve played Quidditch before in my class, and they just kind of threw us in, but this time I felt like I actually knew what I was doing because the rules were explained really well,” Flores said. “The presenters were very knowledgeable about the game and its rules, and they promoted fair play and were good referees. I feel like every game was equally matched.”

Aside from being enjoyable and engaging, the Quidditch event also has health benefits due to its fast pace.

“This Quidditch game is designed primarily for fun and stress release, but will incorporate cardio respiratory fitness, as well as throwing and catching skills,” Block said.

Flores felt the effects of incorporated exercise. With his position as seeker, he was required to chase a chosen presenter in attempt to grab a yellow handkerchief they had, which posed as the snitch.

“When you’re really into it, it becomes a good workout,” Flores said. “I was sweating a lot.”

Quidditch began on Nov. 28, and will carry into December, taking place on Dec. 5 in the Wells Fargo Sports Complex from 11:30 a.m. – 12:45 p.m. Everyone is welcome to attend.

“The more people who come, the more magical the experience will be,” Hearn said.

All activities available during Knockout November and De-stress December are scheduled from 11:30 a.m. to 12:45 p.m. on Tuesdays and Thursdays, ending on Dec. 7. A full schedule with details of activities and their locations is posted on the Employee Wellness section of the Department of Health, Physical Education and Recreation page on the UAA website.