Fruita Middle School: Little Players with Big Spirit

Kidditch (kid quidditch) is often a fun downtime event at tournaments when a wide range of young kids sprint onto the pitch with a determined look on their faces, all wanting to try and catch the snitch while some waddle around with an oversized broomstick between their short legs. It entertains the little ones, wears them out, and gives parents and players a break. However, if we want to see our sport really take flight, we have to turn “kidditch” into organized quidditch for high schools and middle schools across the country.

Some high schools have developed teams (although only three were officially registered with USQ for this past 2016-17 season), but there is one middle school team that is turning a sporadic kidditch game into a more recognizable quidditch team in Colorado: Fruita Middle School.

At the end of the school year in 2016, the Fruita Middle School teachers came together to discuss new clubs for the next year. First on J.G. Bonner’s list was a quidditch club, which he wanted to coach alongside boys and girls basketball.

Bonner graduated from the University of Texas at Austin in 2014 where he had walked past quidditch practices on the campus green space. Although he never tried out for the team, the sport didn’t leave his mind as he became one of three seventh grade English teachers at Fruita Middle School, a school comprised of sixth and seventh graders.

“I felt a need for a club that promoted inclusivity of all grades and genders,” said Bonner. “The district doesn’t support athletic leagues for sixth graders, and I wanted a way to unify the school body as well as build something different that had never been seen before. Quidditch was the perfect fit, having a goal of building community as well as building this incredibly fun game.”

Fruita Middle School Quidditch Club. Photo Credit: J.G. Bonner

For a school without sixth grade sports, Fruita Middle School was supportive of the idea to create not only a club that brought the two grades together, but one that also had female and male students playing together as well.

“There doesn’t seem to be any problem from students, parents, or administrators in regards to the gender rules,” said Bonner. “In fact, the inclusiveness of the game is something that all stakeholders have commented on enjoying.”

Over the summer of 2016, Bonner gathered his supplies: hula hoops; donated PVC from a local store to build the goal posts; dowel rods for brooms; and an assortment of balls. Although there weren’t any local teams for Bonner to visit, Houston Cosmos Quidditch Club, Saint Paul’s Quidditch, and Murrieta Quidditch were supportive of youth clubs as well as many international clubs, such as the Shoalhaven Superheroes in Australia (who are looking to host the world’s largest kidditch tournament this summer).

Once school started, the next step was to get students on the field ― a first step that is often a challenge for some universities. Every Friday, however, there were an average of 30 students routinely stepping on the pitch for an hour of after-school practice. The hour usually consisted of drills and shortened gameplay where players would divide themselves into unofficial teams to compete.

After winter break, Bonner wanted to solidify the club team and reach more players, so he developed the Cougar Championship Cup, which consisted of four consistent teams of ten players with their own names and colors: Horntails (3-0 in The Cougar Championship Cup), Dementors (2-1), Those Who Must Not Be Named (1-2), and The Grim (0-3). Bonner developed a draft, promotional video, and medals for eventual winners and “All Hallows Team” awards for best players. The Horntails finished first with a 3-0 record.

“[These] teams were filled with athletes, Potterheads, kids who’ve never read the books, and kids who’ve never picked up a ball before,” said Bonner. “Parents started to bring snacks and waters, and we even have a space in a glass display case where we will keep our cup trophy, some swag, and a record board.”

The Horntails after winning the Cougar Championship Cup. Photo Credit: J.G. Bonner

Some players, like Gavin VW, Julia B, Kaden C, Eleanor H, and Magnolia R, connected with the game through their love of the wizarding world.

“I started quidditch because I’ve never been good at sports but I always loved Harry Potter,” said Magnolia R of the Dementors. “I thought this was an opportunity to play a sport where I can actually play a sport and be myself and be part of a great time and make new friends.”

Others, like Will P, weren’t familiar with the series.

“When I started quidditch, I didn’t know much about Harry Potter,” said Will P, captain of the Horntails. “I started it because I can’t really get into other sports because I’m not manly enough and this is the only one that really works. I finished the books and the movies at this point. I really like quidditch because it’s really fun and it’s all genders and you can hang out with friends.”

Beyond the books, this middle school team has also included students who view themselves as athletic or non-athletic. Annalise M loved the Harry Potter series and doesn’t consider herself a sports person, but she captained Those Who Must Not Be Named.

Parents Jessica Young and Becky Richardson are incredibly supportive of their kids participating in quidditch.

“I like that quidditch is a sport that is relatable to my daughter, who is not into sports, but it brings the fun fantasy of books to life and gets them up, moving, and running,” said Mrs. Richardson.

Fruita Middle School players. Photo Credit: J.G. Bonner

Fruita Middle School Quidditch Club plays primarily by USQ’s kidditch rulebook to keep the game legitimate for the students. This means the club is non-contact, which Bonner hopes to continue even when the club sport becomes available to the eighth grade.

“I think non-contact is key in the development of quidditch as an extramural club sport,” said Bonner. “My hopes are not to turn district quidditch into something run by the district athletic director, but rather maintain club status so that sixth graders can continue to participate and that equitable gender representation remains an aspect of the sport.”

The club sport has made some changes to its own rulebook, however, especially regarding when and how the quaffle can be taken by another player. Bonner doesn’t give out cards, and the pitch shrinks on practice days with games shortened to five minutes before the snitch is released so that they can play more games and include more students.

During practice, Bonner also tries his best to stick to the Title 9¾ rule, but when numbers dwindle or students are tired, Bonner continues play by trying to keep numbers even or joining in himself (spraining an ankle once in the process).

Although Fruita Middle School follows the USQ rulebook, it doesn’t seem like the club will register with USQ anytime soon. It lacks the funding for registration, and the benefits are slim to a middle school that’s four hours away from any current registered quidditch club.

“Any money we do get, we use on our kids locally,” said Bonner. “One of the first thing students ask is if it costs money to play (school sports athletes pay $70 per sport), and free is the best thing I can offer our kids.”

The Fruita Middle School Quidditch Club logo. Photo Credit: J.G. Bonner

The Fruita Middle School Quidditch Club logo. Photo Credit: J.G. Bonner

But Bonner does see some opportunities to grow in the future.

“I would like to have Big Sister clubs associated with any kidditch membership,” said Bonner. “Pair a kidditch team with an active quidditch team that could support the younger players from afar or even come to do training sessions, if local. Allowing kids to see what quidditch could be like for them later is an important part of growing the game.”

For now, Fruita Middle School Quidditch Club is planning on staying and growing locally.

“I have talked with other middle schools in the district, and it looks like another school will prepare to create a club next year,” said Bonner. “Our hope is to always have a presence on campus and in the community, picking a charity or group to receive a portion of our fundraising monies each year moving forward,” said Bonner.

Although it has only finished its first year, Fruita Middle School Quidditch Club’s players are excited not only about continuing their club sport next year, but playing beyond their middle school years.

“When quidditch started this year, I was very interested,” said player Nand P. “This sport has been the first sport I ever actually liked. I really hope this continues throughout my life.”

To continue to grow our sport, we should be looking for ways to transform the brief and irregular kidditch games that pepper the half-times of our larger college and community tournaments into an organized club sport for younger kids to regularly participate in as a team. As quidditch in the Fruita Middle School region expands, it will be an example for high schools and middle schools across the country.