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Quidditch Through the Ages gives the following information about Quidditch referee qualifications:

The effective Quidditch referee needs to be more than an expert flier. He or she has to watch the antics of fourteen players at once [...] In Britain, Quidditch referees are selected by the Department of Magical Games and Sports. They have to take rigorous flying tests and an exacting written examination on the rules of Quidditch and prove, through a series of intensive trials, that they will not jinx or curse offensive players even under severe pressure.

Quidditch Through the Ages - page 31 - Scholastic Books - chapter 6, Changes in Quidditch Since the Fourteenth Century

Yet, in Philosopher's Stone, Snape referees the Gryffindor/Hufflepuff game:

‘Will you stop messing around!’ [Oliver Wood] yelled. ‘That’s exactly the sort of thing that’ll lose us the match! Snape’s refereeing this time, and he’ll be looking for any excuse to knock points off Gryffindor!’

George Weasley really did fall off his broom at these words. ‘Snape’s refereeing?’ he spluttered through a mouthful of mud. ‘When’s he ever refereed a Quidditch match? He’s not going to be fair if we might overtake Slytherin.’

Philosopher's Stone - page 159 - British Hardcover - chapter 13, Nicholas Flamel

One of the things that seemed to differentiate Snape from James Potter was James's status as a very good Chaser (no, he wasn't Seeker) for Gryffindor, and Snape being kind of gangly, unathletic, and bookish.

Did Snape play Quidditch while he was a student at Hogwarts?

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    Hogwarts shares many of the stereotypical attributes of a 'private' school in the UK, and Quidditch is the main sport played by the wizarding community. In schools in the UK everyone has to play sport one afternoon a week - 'physical education' or PE, which is separate from the house or school teams which only the best players get involved with. It seems inconceivable to me that Snape wouldn't have played some Quidditch while a student, after all how do they know who the best players are going to be if they don't teach it to everyone. – iandotkelly Mar 9 '15 at 20:02
  • Krum is also kind of gangly and not very athletic to look at on the ground (though perhaps mostly bookish to get to talk to Hermione). – Janus Bahs Jacquet Jan 26 '16 at 20:59
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I don't think so, but it's possible.

I'm fairly sure that Quidditch Through the Ages here is describing professional Quidditch referees (Chudley Cannons, etc). That wouldn't necessarily apply to school referees.

I think that Snape was simply refereeing because Dumbledore wanted him to protect Harry.

Still, it is possible. What we know of Professor Snape's youth is all shown through the lens of his memories. First, the memories that he removed into the Pensieve before teaching Harry Occlumency, and then the memories he shared with Harry in The Deathly Hallows.

In the first case, Professor Snape only put the painful memories that he would be embarrassed for Harry to see. Perhaps he simply thought that Quidditch memories weren't something to keep from Harry.

In the second case, there was no reason to share something as trivial as Quidditch. He had more important information to share.

The only other glimpse we get into Snape's past is though comments made by Sirius (and maybe a bit from Remus). If Snape were any good at Quidditch, do you think Sirius would mention it? They didn't speak much of each other, other than insults. Maybe Snape was brilliant on the broom and Sirius didn't bring it up because he couldn't insult him.

All of that said, it's entirely possible that he played, but his having played wouldn't be necessary for him to referee a Quidditch game, particularly if he was there to keep Harry safe at Dumbledore's request.

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    I'd have made a good politician. That's the long-windedest non-answer I've given lately. – David Stratton Apr 13 '12 at 4:27
  • This is a great answer, and yes you should run for office! QTTA's full excerpt is this: The effective Quidditch referee needs to be more than an expert flier. He or she has to watch the antics of fourteen players at once and the most common referee’s injury is consequently neck strain. At professional matches the referee is assisted by officials who stand around the boundaries of the pitch and ensure that neither players nor balls stray over the outer perimeter. It seems to indicate both amateur and professional levels. :) – Slytherincess Apr 13 '12 at 4:39
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    @Slytherincess perhaps that implies Snape isn't an 'effective referee'? He wasn't really watching 14 players, just the One. – AncientSwordRage Apr 13 '12 at 11:57
  • Additionally, I seem to recall that one of Snape's memories that Harry sees when he accidentally used an Occlumency spell on him is of him mounting a bucking broomstick. So he did at least ride brooms while at Hogwarts – TenthJustice Mar 25 '15 at 1:23
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Snape did not play Quidditch

After Harry went into the Pensieve, he felt terrible that his father bothered Snape for no reason. He ended up sneaking into Professor Umbridge's office because he wanted to seek assurance from Sirius that his dad was a great man. Sirius who happened to be there, then states:

“Look, Harry,” said Sirius placatingly, “James and Snape hated each other from the moment they set eyes on each other, it was just one of those things, you can understand that, can’t you? I think James was everything Snape wanted to be — he was popular, he was good at Quidditch, good at pretty much everything. And Snape was just this little oddball who was up to his eyes in the Dark Arts and James — whatever else he may have appeared to you, Harry — always hated the Dark Arts.”

This means that Snape never played on the House team because:

  1. He wasn't popular.

  2. He wasn't good at Quidditch

  3. He was an oddball, meaning he never really participated in popular activities.

He also couldn't have been playing at home because of what we learn in The Deathly Hollows, that Snape's parents fought a lot:

Lily: "Are they still fighting at home?" Snape: "Yeah, they're fighting"

From this I seriously doubt Snape's dad or mother would bother to spend time with their son to play Quidditch.

Then the argument that Snape was being referee, but that can just be because he knew how to play. He didn't really play but he knew how. He went to every Quidditch game at school, so it was very likely he caught on by watching the House teams play.

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There is no evidence that I can find that Snape was ever a Quidditch player. He refereed the Quidditch match in Philosopher's Stone to try and protect Harry.

‘Snape was trying to save me?’

‘Of course,’ said Quirrell coolly. ‘Why do you think he wanted to referee your next match? He was trying to make sure I didn’t do it again. Funny, really ... he needn’t have bothered. I couldn’t do anything with Dumbledore watching. All the other teachers thought Snape was trying to stop Gryffindor winning, he did make himself unpopular ... and what a waste of time, when after all that, I’m going to kill you tonight.’

Philosopher's Stone - page 209 - Bloomsbury - chapter 17, The Man With Two Faces

1

The books offer no proof that Snape played Quidditch (although it isn't impossible). Lupin attributes Snape's dislike of James Potter to jealousy about James's Quidditch talent, but in all likelihood, he was mostly irritated about the attention that James received because of his skills, rather than the skills themselves. Snape certainly cared about Slytherin winning at Quidditch, but the books do not offer any suggestions about how much he cared for Quidditch outside of Hogwarts (I can't imagine him sticking a Chudley Cannons poster to his wall at any point in his life). He clearly knows the Quidditch rules well enough to referee. Other than that, the books give no clear indication of Snape's Quidditch-playing ability.

1

Probably not...

All the other answers have some very good points, and there's just one more thing I'd like to add on to it. During Occlumency lessons, Harry uses Protego and looks at some flashes of Snape's memories: (emphasis mine)

“Protego!”

Snape staggered - his wand flew upwards, away from Harry - and suddenly Harry’s mind was teeming with memories that were not his: a hook-nosed man was shouting at a cowering woman, while a small dark-haired boy cried in a corner... a greasy-haired teenager sat alone in a dark bedroom, pointing his wand at the ceiling, shooting down flies... a girl was laughing as a scrawny boy tried to mount a bucking broomstick...

This is likely during first years' broomstick classes and doesn't exactly scream brilliant Quidditch player! Even if it wasn't during broomstick classes, it still shows a lack of agility and skill on a broomstick, resulting in a lack of Quidditch-playing...

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It's also relevant to consider the fact that there is no mention of quidditch being played apart from by the. This is actually a bit odd when you think about it as most schools have some sort of sport or physical education on the curriculum.

Similarly there are a few instances where new team members join the Gryffindor team over the years which so it seems pretty likely that they have had some opportunity to play and practice outside of the house teams.

This is further supported by the presence of Madam Hooch on the school staff. Apart from when she examines Harry's Firebolt we only hear about her in the first flying lesson and refereeing inter-house quidditch matches. Again it seems odd that she would be there just as a referee and to give one flying lesson to first years.

There is also the fact that we know about the legal requirement for an apparition test but also that broomsticks are a reasonably common form of transport so it seems reasonably likely that this is also taught and tested in school.

Overall it seems reasonable to suppose that all students get flying and probably also quidditch lessons but as the story is told from Harry's perspective they just never come up.

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    So.... did Snape play Quidditch? – phantom42 Jan 26 '16 at 17:48
  • So he must have played Quidditch a little in school, like all other students but not in a house team... – max pnj Jul 22 '16 at 10:19

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