Broomsticks and broken noses

Josh Barker, a Wichita State aerospace engineering major, knows a thing or two about flight. As an avid Harry Potter fan, his expertise extends to broomsticks.

Barker first learned about collegiate Quidditch on a visit to the WSU campus as a high school student on Junior Day. The Quidditch team was teaching high school students how to play the game, and Barker was hooked immediately.

“I pretty much fell in love with it right away,” Barker said.

One of his first on-campus activities was to join the team. Before the end of his first practice, Barker was already holding his own in a scrimmage against other student athletes and Potter enthusiasts.

“I started off playing chaser, (ball-handler) but at the end of our first regionals … a lot of our big guys were down so I ended up playing keeper,” Barker said.

Keeper was a good fit, and Barker enjoyed the challenge, but even a wizarding sport is not always unicorns and pixies.

“I broke my nose too many times,” Barker said. “After getting it reconstructed, my parents were pretty convinced that I probably shouldn’t play anymore.”

After two years with the team, Barker hung up his robes, but he could not find it within himself to leave Quidditch entirely.

“I didn’t want to give it up,” he said. “I liked the guys on the team, and still wanted to be a part of it.”

Over the last two years, Barker has found a different way to channel his enthusiasm. He is now the president of WSU Quidditch, and the team’s coach.

As coach, Barker handles match scheduling, bi-weekly practices and recruiting new players for the team. He sees Quidditch as an opportunity for students to get involved and hopes to increase participation among the student body.

“We don’t have enough members to travel and compete yet, but we are always looking for more,” Barker said.

Until vacancies are filled, the WSU Quidditch team will continue to practice under Barker. The Monday and Thursday evening practices consist of drills and scrimmages aimed at refining individual skills and the group dynamics.

Balancing school, work and coaching is a full-time rewarding job for Barker.

“I just love the sport, and I want to stay involved with it,” Barker said.

It might be a ways in the future, but the ultimate goal for Barker and his team is to compete in the collegiate Quidditch World Cup, held annually in South Carolina. A berth in the World Cup would go a long way toward cementing the legacy of WSU Quidditch.

Barker hopes to graduate with a degree in engineering and purse a career in designing aerodynamic golf equipment.

“That’s the dream,” Barker said.

One thing is sure: if aerodynamic technologies ever expand to include flying broomsticks, Barker will be the first to know about it.