For the last couple of summers, Shenandoah University’s Department of Exercise Science has concerned itself with quaffles and bludgers, and golden snitches and broomsticks, as its faculty teaches young Harry Potter fans how to play the game quidditch as part of a yearly Advanced Hogwarts Camp offered by the Shenandoah Valley Discovery Museum (SVDM) in downtown Winchester.
While the quidditch game can’t be true to the Harry Potter series of books or films (the fictional game is played on a flying broomstick, after all), the version Shenandoah’s department teaches still calls upon young people to test their mettle, albeit on solid ground.
All things Potter are on many fans’ minds right about now, with “Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald,” the second in the “Fantastic Beasts” Harry Potter prequel film series created by Potter author/creator J.K. Rowling, opening in November. Alas, there’s no quidditch in this movie, although the series’ first film did feature a quidditch joke.
Connecting With Quidditch
The evolution of Shenandoah and SVDM quidditch began several years ago when the department offered a health program in a third-floor room during a First Friday event downtown at the museum. Vertical jump, grip strength, and flexibility fitness testing activities were included to encourage healthy behaviors in children, but people kept passing them by, said Assistant Professor of Exercise Science Barry Parker, Ph.D., and Associate Professor of Exercise Science Jessica Peacock, Ph.D.
Then, Dr. Peacock said, a SVDM staffer who saw their predicament yelled, “Hey kids! There’s superhero training on the third floor!” Children appeared. Dr. Parker said they asked the children if they were as fast as The Flash, or if they could jump as high as Superman. The kids loved it.
Later, the department returned for a SVDM Fandemonium event, and eventually settled on using quidditch, which has an earthbound version that’s popular as a club sport on college campuses, to reach children and encourage healthy behaviors. Quidditch, Parker and Peacock said, requires balance, quick feet, grip strength and more.
The idea was a hit. Whenever they offer quidditch at a SVDM event, children return several times in an visit, trying to improve on their previous results or to challenge their parents’ and siblings’ skills, Parker and Peacock said.
Teaching Healthy Behaviors, Essential Skills & Having Fun
Quidditch also incorporates partner work, and being part of a team, Parker said. As such, it provides opportunities for children to be more empathetic and explore the real purpose of playing a game. At the Advanced Hogwarts Camp one year, when one girl felt she was being left out, the opportunity arose to talk about keeping the focus of the game on fun, not competition, Peacock said. “We just want them to move and have fun,” she added.
Quidditch teaches students perseverance, endurance, patience, and best of all, teamwork. Shenandoah University’s Exercise Science Department does a stellar job of adding a magical component to our summer camp experience. They make exercise fun and accessible for all. We are honored to work with them.”
Dr. Diane Schnoor | SVDM Lead Educator
The game allows kids to focus on sport in a way that is about beating personal goals and building confidence more than anything else. Being an active, healthy person is really about learning how to have confidence in your own abilities while engaging in a sport or physical activity you really enjoy, Parker said. “You don’t have to be the fastest; you don’t have to be the strongest,” he said.
Delighting Grown-Ups, Too
And, if the game you play is delightful to others, that’s also a bonus. When Shenandoah Exercise Science faculty traveled to a recent American College of Sports Medicine International Health & Fitness Summit in Washington, D.C., to present about sedentary behavior in kids and its connection to obesity, and they brought their quidditch gear as part of their workshop presentation, people couldn’t help but get excited about the prospect of playing quidditch themselves.
And, Peacock noted, when they were at the hotel and people saw their broomsticks atop their luggage, people asked, “Are you the quidditch person?”
Yes, indeed, they are the quidditch people. And happily so, if that means children are having fun and staying healthy while playing a game they love.