Students congregated on the Intramural fields outside of Stanford Residential College to play their favorite late-night sports. Some chose to play lacrosse, others participated in Ultimate Frisbee. While looking at the far-right side of the field, one could see in plain view a group of athletes gathering around hoop-like fixtures dug into the ground. The students were wearing cleats, but they weren’t playing soccer. They were throwing balls at each other, but they weren’t playing dodgeball. They were holding broom-like sticks in their hands. This group was playing Quidditch.
The club Quidditch team was holding its typical Thursday practice last week, one that consisted of contact and balance drills, aggressive physical training and what seemed like constant enjoyment. Captain Bernie Berges led many of the drills.
Berges is a lot of things: an active member in FEC (Federacion de Estudiantes Cubanos), a former senator in Student Government and a worker at the Business IT department. But, he can now add U.S. National Team Quidditch player to the top of that list. Berges is one of the 21 collegiate players (the only one from Miami) selected around the country to play for the U.S. in the 2016 World Cup in Frankfurt, Germany in July.
“I was at the Rat when the announcement was made and the whole team was there,” Berges said. “I was super excited.”
The senior majoring in business technology and political science has become an integral part of the club Quidditch team since joining as a sophomore. In the past three years, he has become a team captain, player-coach and arguably the team’s best player.
“I played soccer all throughout high school, but the intramural soccer team wasn’t that competitive,” Berges said, speaking about his path to finding Quidditch. “I had heard that the Quidditch team was really good, and I had seen clips of it and it looked awesome. So I thought sure, I’ll try out for Quidditch and see how it goes.”
It has gone very well, to say the least. The Miami native is one of the top chasers (the primary offensive players in the sport) in the nation. He skillfully uses his athleticism to dominate on both the offensive and defensive sides of the field. According to senior club co-captain German Barrios, Berges’s work ethic has been the key to his success.
“Bernie has been working hard since he stepped on the field,” Barrios said. “The reason he is a captain and the reason he is on Team USA right now is because he has worked his butt off every single day to get better.”
However, for Berges, it has always been more about the team than himself.
“The goal hasn’t been for me to be the best in the country; it is for UM Quidditch to be one of the best in the country,” Berges said.
The UM Quidditch team is ranked No. 28 in the country and has a national tournament coming up on April 16-17. Quidditch has quickly become one of the fastest-growing sports in the country, specifically on college campuses. The game started in 2005, and in just 11 years, U.S. Quidditch is now serving more than 4,000 players on almost 200 teams across the nation.
Berges loves just about everything about the sport, but he said that the variety of playing styles is his favorite part.
“If a team has a really good beater, they might play a bit slower,” Berges said. “Or if a team has four athletic chasers, they will push the pace.”
As much as he has enjoyed the seriousness and competitiveness of the sport of Quidditch, Berges values the friendship aspect of it just as much as the actual game.
“I take it super seriously, but at the same time we keep it fun and light-hearted,” Berges said. “We hang out all the time, even outside of Quidditch.”
When asking Barrios what he would miss the most about the club Quidditch team, his answer was simple: the people.
“Everybody becomes a family,” Barrios said. “Some people walk by and you can tell that they judge you, but Quidditch is a normal sport to everyone here and we are all weird and wacky in our own way.”
Berges is graduating this year and already has a job lined up in a government consulting firm, but he will always hold on to the relationships created from UM Quidditch.
“The people here are something special,” Berges said.
Correction, April 7: This article originally stated that the UM Quidditch team has a national championship occurring April 15-16. This is incorrect. The championship is occurring April 16-17.