The Sunshine Coast Lightning Netball team decided to give Quidditch a try in collaboration with the University of Sunshine Coast (USC) Quidditch team as part of their pre-season as they gear up towards the 2022 Super Netball season.
You may have heard of Quidditch. The sport in the Harry Potter universe. But did you know there is a real-life version of the sport played all over the world?
It is a sport that is made up of multiple facets from many different sports including ice hockey, soccer/football, rugby, OzTag, dodgeball, and netball. It is also a mixed gender and full contact sport.
The USC Quidditch program was very excited to train with the Lightning, and with multiple ex-netball players involved with the team, the opportunity to train with professional netball players was not lost on the team.
But netballers aren’t the only former high level athletes who make up the USC Quidditch program. One member of the program is a former national hammer throw champion, while others have been high level track athletes and soccer players.
The Inner Sanctum spoke with outgoing USC Quidditch President Claire Smith, who helped to organise and run the training session in conjunction with USC Sport after they were contacted by the Sunshine Coast Lightning.
The session came about as the Lightning wanted to mix up their pre-season and tried several different sports in collaboration with USC Sport, of which USC Quidditch is part of, to work on improving a few different skills, including spatial awareness.
Putting together the session from the Quidditch side of things was very easy for Smith and the USC coaching staff.
“Being a university team, every six months with orientation week we have a really big recruitment drive, and we have a lot of people come to our come and try nights, so we were able to structure it really similarly to that,” Smith said.
The Lightning players were very quick to pick up on the nuances of Quidditch and adapt to them.
This included the bludgers, which can knock you out of play at any time (used by the beaters), the ball-handling skills with the quaffle (the scoring ball used by the chasers and keeper), and their team awareness, which made it easy for the USC Quidditch coaches to craft a training program that would ensure benefits for both sides.
The only struggle of note was needing to have a broom between your legs that you must stay on, where the Lightning players would at first remove the broom as they were running and just hold it by their side as they continued running.
In Quidditch that is known as a dismount, and means the player is out of play until the player executes the remount procedure by tapping back on to their own hoops.
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The netball skills could be seen on full display during some of the training drills, especially with passing and scoring around the hoops, with a lot of quick but deliberate passing, some excellent marking, swats and deflections of the quaffle, and some high-quality scoring.
Once all the training drills had been completed, it was time to play a game where the Lightning players would put the skills they had just learnt into play, and it was smiles all around in a very low-key, albeit competitive game.
“We were definitely a lot more lenient on the rules,” Smith said when asked about the actual game.
“We did no contact to avoid unnecessary injuries, which took away the worry of a lot of those rules (related to contact), like no two-arm contact, no contact from behind, and no high contact.”
Having experienced Quidditch players intermingled between the two squads of Lightning players helped to create a free-flowing game as opposed to one riddled with stoppages to explain different things.
“The assistant ref would approach the players during lulls in play and give advice on how you should do this or do that, and the experienced players were able to do the same thing as we were playing with them,” Smith explained.
Should more professional sports teams interact with their local Quidditch teams through methods such as a come and try session like the Lightning did? Smith certainly thinks so.
“I don’t think there are many teams at all that wouldn’t benefit from Quidditch because it is such an accumulation of different sports and because of that there are so many skills taken from all these different sports and put together (to create Quidditch),” she said.
“It’s not just a game of strategy, it is a really big game of developing skills, such as spatial awareness and ball-handling.”
What sports could benefit the most?
“European handball, rugby, soccer, and netball,” Smith explained.
“There’s a lot of parallels between things like formations, strategies, and team positioning or awareness and how to set them up, as well as just general fitness with the amount of running required in Quidditch.”
The only thing that USC would change about the session is wanting more time.
“We started at about 5pm, we had a little introduction that detailed the history of the sport and just how worldwide the sport is,” Smith said.
“We then explained the basics like this is a broom, this is a quaffle, a bludger, and this is what you do with them, before going into about an hour, hour and a quarters worth of training and then a half hour game.
“I’d have loved to have a second game to be able to go more in-depth about what the Lightning players did in the first game, and where they could improve for the second game and see how those were incorporated.”
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