Skip to Content, Navigation, or Footer.
Logo of The Middlebury Campus
Thursday, Jun 20, 2024

Seeking the Future: Quidditch changes name to quadball

At Middlebury, the birthplace of the real-life game, the team has embraced the change

Middlebury Quadball finishes their first practice of the 2022 fall season.
Middlebury Quadball finishes their first practice of the 2022 fall season.

Major League Quidditch (MLQ) and U.S. Quidditch (USQ) have announced that they are changing their sport’s official name to “Quadball,” according to a statement released in July. The International Quidditch Association (IQA) has stated that it will adopt the name change as well.

“We are confident in this step, and we look forward to all the new opportunities Quadball will bring,” said Chris Lau, chair of the IQA Board of Trustees and co-founder of the Hong Kong Quidditch Association. “This is an important moment in our sport’s history.”

A series of transphobic tweets by J.K. Rowling sparked interest in changing the name of the sport. Rowling, the author of the Harry Potter series that established the basis of Quidditch, took to Twitter to voice her dissent with an op-ed that called for a greater diversification in genders that could receive government-funded menstruation products while not using the word “women.”

“‘People who menstruate.’ I’m sure there used to be a word for those people. Someone help me out. Wumben? Wimpund? Woomud?” Rowling tweeted in 2020.

In the wake of these comments, USQ and MLQ immediately began their search for a new name. However, for the now-Quadball community, there was something greater at stake in this search. Beater position captain and treasurer for the Middlebury Quadball Club Josh Harkins ’25 pointed out that Rowling’s comments struck a key pillar of Quadball culture: gender diversity and acceptance.

“As a sport, the Quadball community is so welcoming to all gender identities,” Harkins said. “It is a mandatory co-ed sport. It really was necessary to change away from an association from someone who made that statement because it didn’t fit with the community.”

For many veterans of the sport, the significance of the name change extends far beyond Rowling’s comments. It is one of the final puzzle pieces to fall in place to confirm something that many had known all along: Quadball is a unique sport.

For a long time, players have felt that the name “Quidditch” ties the sport too closely to the game and culture of the Harry Potter franchise. What began as a mock game on Battell Beach in 2005 has since grown into an internationally organized sport played by over 600 teams with a unique rulebook that dictates every detail, down to the types of players that can be on the field.

“For me personally there is definitely some nostalgia to the original name, but from a long term development perspective I feel confident this is a smart decision for the future that will allow the sport to grow without limits into its own unique space for many years to come,” said USQ Founder Alex Benepe ’09. 

Renaming Quadball will allow the sport to freely market itself and grow its fan base without constraints. Relying on the term “Quidditch,” which Warner Bros. has trademarked, has long tied the hands of many leagues hoping to bring in money and advertise themselves.

“There was no future [for Quadball] with the possible threat of a lawsuit of copyright,” Harkins said. “To grow the sport, it is definitely necessary to have licensing deals and all sorts of stuff like that — which only comes with a name change.”

Such a change is not without precedent. Notable examples of college-based sports partaking in name changes include frisbee’s change to “ultimate” in order to avoid a copyright strike from Wham-O, the creators of the frisbee disc.

Aspirations of Quadball becoming more widely-played, if backed properly, seem realistic so far. In August, ESPN televised a U.S. National Quadball Team match. While watching at home, Harkins noticed not only how much better the quality of video was, but also how that contributed to his family’s excitement about the sport.

“[ESPN] had a drone camera, they had the resources to make it a real production. And when the production value is up and there is a real announcer commentating, it makes a huge difference,” Harkins said. 

Harkins also pointed out that most matches are streamed on Youtube and Facebook through mobile devices, severely limiting the viewer’s ability to follow the game. “I’ve had people talk to me about how much fun it was to watch and how easily they were able to understand it because it was in a more accessible format,” Harkins said.

Quadball looks to be taking off in an exciting new direction, but the culture and values of Middlebury Quadball Club remain the same: being welcoming and bringing joy to all, one broomstick at a time.

Enjoy what you're reading? Get content from The Middlebury Campus delivered to your inbox