Sunday, April 15, 2018

A New Champion: Thestrals from University of Rochester Defeat Longhorns

At the very beginning of the 2016-17 season, I messaged Mike Pascutoi.

Jack: "What can you tell me about URochester and RIT for this upcoming season?"

Mike: "From a completely unbiased perspective, UR has the higher ceiling but RIT is better now. RIT is older; their core is about to graduate. UR is a team built around a core of sophomores and a few juniors."

This was news to me. The University of Rochester had failed to qualify for US Quidditch Cup 9 in 2016, losing to Emerson College at the 2015 Northeast Regional Championship on their home turf. Before that, Rochester had always languished in the middle tiers of the Northeast, best known around the country for its crosstown rivalry with Rochester Institute of Technology and for an unfortunate string of losses in the first round of bracket play at Nationals (Ives Pond. Michigan State. UCLA. Blue Mountain. Florida's Finest). After missing Nationals altogether, I had counted them out and left them for dead. I certainly did not think of them as a team with a high ceiling. The prospects for any rebuilding college team looked incredibly bleak at the time.

Two years later, thanks in large part to the landmark decision by US Quidditch to divide college and community teams into separate tournaments at Nationals, Rochester is a national champion. The core of now juniors and a few seniors, supported by a fast-learning class of freshmen and vaulted over the finish line by three snitch catches from Pascutoi, defeated the three-time national champion University of Texas on Sunday. 
Photo by Miguel Esparza. Courtesy of the Eighth Man.
Heading into the finals as heavy underdogs, Rochester exploded out of the gates, scoring three consecutive goals to take a commanding 30-0 lead. Texas fought back but Rochester weathered the storm and stayed within snitch range. While anybody with memories of the Texas three-peat probably expected the Longhorns to pull first, Rochester flipped the script, prompting players from across the country to rush onto the field and mob the players. 

As the new and worthy champion, Rochester now carries the flag for the college division of the sport. Rochester becomes only the third college team to claim the US Quidditch national championship after Middlebury College and the University of Texas. The eventual champions suffered a Saturday loss to Arizona State, but finished with an impressive 9-1 record at the tournament. On the road to the championship game, Rochester defeated a long list of teams from four regions: Oklahoma State, RPI, Texas Tech, Lock Haven, Penn State, UTSA and Kansas.

Rochester's championship is even more remarkable because the team has played only two official games this spring. Over 100 inches of snow rained down on the city of Rochester this winter, making practices almost impossible. Yet, after capturing the 2017 Northeast Regional Championship with a dominant 6-0 record in November, Rochester showed few signs of rust.

Rochester is nicknamed the Thestrals, the skeletal horses from the Harry Potter series visible only to those who have witnessed death. The nickname is eerily fitting for a team that survived the crushing failure to qualify for Nationals only two years ago. A team that survived many graduations and rebuilt from the bottom up. A team that always faces one of the longest and coldest winters in the United States. A team that stumbled on Saturday, but eventually found its groove.
Photo by Miguel Esparza. Courtesy of the Eighth Man.
While quidditch should definitely celebrate its many thestrals, Rochester was not the only success story of the weekend in Round Rock. Texas and Texas State proved once again the gold standard of college quidditch programs. Without a doubt, both teams played some of the best all-around quidditch of the tournament. Several players from both teams made strong cases for Team USA this summer. While I have no idea about graduating classes, Texas and Texas State seem well-positioned for the short-term and long-term future. I was also thrilled to see UCLA, Kansas and Cal with new names and faces back in the later rounds of bracket play after an extended absence. 

But beyond wins and losses at the highest level of the sport, I think and I hope that US Quidditch Cup 11 marked a new beginning for quidditch. The large crowds and jubilant scenes under the lights harkened back to World Cup V at Icahn Stadium in New York City. The long and well-deserved tunnels, snaking across the fields, showed a healthy and supportive community. 

Over the summer, following the long-awaited announcement of a college community split, I wrote an article for this blog but never published it. I quickly forgot about it until I logged in to The QuidKid tonight. I just posted the piece, which is not exactly my best work but nicely captures the feeling at the time. Here is an excerpt from that article.

All of the sudden, the 2017-18 season is very interesting again and most of that intrigue comes from the brand new college division. Although Texas State is perhaps the early favorite, there is that exhilarating feeling that the national championship in the college division is up for grabs. It is the same feeling that made the 2012-13 season and World Cup VI so special. Back then, teams like Texas, UCLA, Baylor, Bowling Green and Emerson dared to dream because anything was possible in the absence of Middlebury. The team with much more experience and all the advantages was gone. Now that the best all-star community teams are also out of the picture, college teams can once again think big and shoot for the moon. And maybe that's what convinces an athletic recruit to stick around for another tournament or an average backup to spend extra hours in the gym.

Think about it. In less than 10 months, 21 new individuals somewhere out there right now will get to call themselves national champions. There will be school newspaper articles, victory celebrations, congratulatory tweets, social media posts, shoutouts from famous alumni and local media features. There will be much greater name recognition for the team on campus and dozens of new faces at tryouts in the fall. On a smaller scale, similar things will happen for college teams that win regional championships or make dramatic runs to the Final Four or Elite Eight. As younger, inexperienced players get a taste of success on the national stage, up-and-coming programs gain momentum for the next season. 

So get excited! The 2017-18 season and beyond now offers incredible opportunities for college teams. With all the twists and turns, it is sure going to be fun to watch.

Photo by Miguel Esparza. Courtesy of the Eighth Man
Congratulations to Rochester and all the teams that competed under the sun this weekend. You have brought new life to American quidditch! Now, it's time to turn our attention Down Under. It's time to build the Redeem Team, knock off Australia and bring the World Cup back home.

Saturday, July 1, 2017

The Future Is Now

Perhaps todayon the eve of the 2017 European Games in Oslo, Norway, in the midst of the Major League Quidditch and Quidditch Premier League seasonsit is difficult to remember that quidditch was started by college freshmen. It is difficult to remember how college students organized and traveled across the country to the very first tournamentsIt is difficult to remember that quidditch in the United States was almost exclusively played by college students until 2013

On Thursday, June 29, US Quidditch (USQ) announced that college and community teams would compete in separate divisions at regional and national championships beginning in the 2017-18 season. It was an exciting surprise from USQ—probably the best news since Alex Benepe and Alicia Redford departed the organization in 2015. It shows that USQ is thinking about a wide range of important issues including safety, liability, fairness, morale and marketing. It indicates that USQ is not satisfied with the status quo and is willing to take a big leap of faith.

As many of my old readers and social media followers know of course, I have been one of the loudest advocates for a college community split. I personally did not think this day would come until next summer or beyond. I was somewhat disengaged, even disillusioned, and I definitely was not alone. I am relieved and excited that USQ acted now but I also know that this is going to be an extremely complicated process. This is the toughest challenge that we have faced yet and we need to get it right. With that in mind, I wanted to carefully consider what the future looks like for college teams and community teams in the United States. 

College: A New Beginning
All of the sudden, the 2017-18 season is very interesting again and most of that intrigue comes from the brand new college division. Although Texas State is perhaps the early favorite, there is that exhilarating feeling that the national championship in the college division is up for grabs. It is the same feeling that made the 2012-13 season and World Cup VI so special. Back then, teams like Texas, UCLA, Baylor, Bowling Green and Emerson dared to dream because anything was possible in the absence of Middlebury. The team with much more experience and all the advantages was gone. Now that the best all-star community teams are also out of the picture, college teams can once again think big and shoot for the moon. And maybe that's what convinces an athletic recruit to stick around for another tournament or an average backup to spend extra hours in the gym.

Think about it. In less than 10 months, 21 new individuals somewhere out there right now will get to call themselves national champions. There will be school newspaper articles, victory celebrations, congratulatory tweets, social media posts, shoutouts from famous alumni and local media features. There will be much greater name recognition for the team on campus and dozens of new faces at tryouts in the fall. On a smaller scale, similar things will happen for college teams that win regional championships or make dramatic runs to the Final Four or Elite Eight. As younger, inexperienced players get a taste of success on the national stage, up-and-coming programs gain momentum for the next season. 

So get excited! The 2017-18 season and beyond now offers incredible opportunities for college teams. I can't make any guarantees but I am definitely more likely to invest my time and energy in starting a team at Williams now. Even if I am not immediately successful, I will be closely following the drama from afar. With all the twists and turns, it is sure going to be fun to watch.

Community: Two Paths
There is much more to figure out about the future for community teams. The community division at nationals is fairly straightforward. It has kind of been done before with the Bat City Showcase and it is likely to produce many great games again. There are multiple strong title contenders from across the country. It will feel smaller and different but it will still be intense and rewarding. I think most community teams realize that. 

Community divisions at regionals on the other hand are by far the biggest question mark for the upcoming season. Most regions only have enough community teams for a small tournament. To make these regionals worthwhile for community teams, USQ's staff and gameplay volunteers need to start a dialogue now with players and coaches. USQ should propose unorthodox tournament formats, discuss shortening the community competition to one day and even allow community teams in the smallest regions to go elsewhere. For example, Great Lakes community teams should probably attend the Mid-Atlantic Regional Championship in the suburbs of Pittsburgh or the Midwest Regional Championship in Madison, Wisconsin. 

On the other side of the table, community teams have to accept that regionals are going to be very different. Instead of a large two-day event with pool play and bracket play, most community teams are probably going to play a double round-robin. It will be more like the regular season in Major League Quidditch or qualification for the FIFA World Cup in soccer. Community teams will travel long distances to play two or three matches each against their closest rivals. It is not perfect but it is not the worst thing in the world. 

So there are two paths forward for community teams. First, community teams could stay involved with USQ, buying membership, attending regionals and working out the kinks together.  Second, community teams could abandon USQ and create their own cheaper alternative tournaments. I think the first path is thankfully much more likely and while I understand some of the motivation, I think the second path would be a terrible mistake.

Community teams need USQ and USQ needs community teams. USQ gives community teams legitimacy, certainty and structure. Are the best all-star community teams really going to rely on individuals to organize a national championship year after year? That is incredibly risky. What if no one steps forward one year? 

USQ is a professional organization that is known and respected by many other sports governing bodies and city tourism boards. When USQ lists a community team on its website or invites a community team to its national championship, that means something. It carries weight and presents more opportunities for official recognition by the media, government, business and civil society. Without a doubt in my mind, community teams that stick with USQ are more likely to secure sponsorships, get field space and attract new recruits in the long run.

Of course, community teams are indispensable for USQ too. Community teams introduce new strategies, recruit new athletes, provide experienced referees, develop future stars for Team USA and mentor college teams. Throughout the 2017-18 season, community teams will still entertain thousands of spectators with evenly-matched, down-to-the-wire games. Most importantly, community teams show that quidditch is dynamic and popular even beyond college campuses. 

So don't get me wrong. I think community teams are important and I think the future is bright for community teams too. Especially as MLQ becomes more structured and more closed, USQ community teams allow any group of friends to get together and rise through the ranks to the highest levels of the sport. I expect the number of community teams to continue to increase and I hope to see crosstown rivalries and local derbies soon, as well as larger and more interesting regional championships. Finally, and this is my final wish, can we start calling them club teams now? 

Friday, December 30, 2016

College Essay

I submitted the following essay for the Common Application. I applied early decision to Williams College in western Massachusetts and I found out last weekend I was admitted. That's where I will be for the next four years and I am very excited to start the next chapter in my life. As far as I know, Williams does not have a quidditch team right now. I picked Williams for its intimate community, small class sizes, academic opportunities and picturesque setting. I would love to start a team but I just don't know yet if it is possible. Next fall will be overwhelming and only time will tell. For now, I wanted to share this essay as a thank you to the sport and the community. 

When I first found out about real-life quidditch in sixth grade, I naturally had a lot of questions. How did the golden snitch work? Did they have flying broomsticks? I remembered reading Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone back in kindergarten. He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named had frightened me, but I had liked quidditch, the high-flying magical game in the wizarding world.

I was always an avid sports fan, rooting for my hometown Philadelphia teams and delighting in a wide range of more obscure sports every four years during the Olympics. But quidditch? I dusted off my hard copy of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, only intending to re-read the quidditch chapter. I ended up racing through the first book and I jumped into the second. And the third. And so on.

Equipped with my newfound love of Harry Potter and my insatiable curiosity about real-life quidditch, I persuaded my parents to take me to the Quidditch World Cup in New York City. The wizarding world was only two hours away on the New Jersey Turnpike. On a crisp November morning, my dad and I boarded a BoltBus. It wasn’t quite the Hogwarts Express, but it delivered me to a small park along the Hudson River bursting at the seams with energy.

The sights and sounds of the Quidditch World Cup reverberated from a small corner of Hell's Kitchen in an exuberant and chaotic celebration of a young sport. Forty-six teams and hundreds of players sported homemade jerseys, painted with names like Potter and Dumbledore across the back and numbers like pi and infinity. Commentators blended improv comedy with play-by-play. Snitches, neutral players dressed from head to toe in bright yellow, evaded capture by climbing chain-link fences and darting into Manhattan street traffic. I settled into a plastic folding chair beside one of the four oval pitches, watching match after match and deciphering the labyrinthine rules of the game.

At that point, I was only a twelve-year-old spectator, but I sensed an infectious passion around this new, progressive, co-ed sport with roots in the wizarding world and children’s literature. I looked out at an intricate game with multiple balls and positions coming together in a masterpiece of teamwork and strategy. Beyond anything else, I wanted to share quidditch with others. I wanted quidditch to be accepted and celebrated as a spectator sport, not some forgotten, short-lived fad of the so-called Harry Potter generation.

In the six years since that day, I have thrown myself into a world of quaffles, bludgers, snitches and broomsticks. I have written a blog called The QuidKid with more than 110,000 views, organized three full-fledged college quidditch tournaments in my hometown and directed media relations for the semi-pro Major League Quidditch. At subsequent Quidditch World Cups, I have coordinated an editorial team of twenty or more twenty-somethings to write pages and pages of website content. I am not a quidditch player, nor a quidditch coach. I market the sport. I defend, preach and champion quidditch.

Throughout all the years, I have felt incredible support and encouragement from the quidditch community. Hundreds of college-aged individuals have looked at me, some kid from the Philadelphia suburbs, as a smart and eloquent writer, a capable and dynamic leader and a thoughtful and funny person. I have learned to engage with something bigger than my own bubble of a school or town. And every day, I have pressed on with my sometimes quixotic mission to bring a whimsical, fringe sport to football fans and bookworms alike.

So, how does the golden snitch work? Why do they hold broomsticks between their legs? Who are the best teams and players in the country? And do the players really fly? I would be thrilled to talk to you about quidditch and maybe, if I can really convey the liveliness and spirit of the sport, I will see you at the next big game.

Thursday, August 25, 2016

The 9:00 P.M. Phone Call and More at the 2016 MLQ Championship

The 9:00 PM Phone Call
I was sitting in a booth with my uncle at Angelo's Pizza, looking out the window into a hot and humid world of strip malls. The 2016 MLQ Championship had finished just an hour or two before and the Boston Night Riders had triumphed over the Austin Outlaws to win their second consecutive title. It was a fantastic weekend of games and storylines, highlighted by the semifinals run of the hometown League City Legends and made possible by an exceptional group of people.

Up to that point, my contributions to the overall success of the weekend were relatively small. Sure, I got a blue polo and manned the merchandise and ticket booths. But, compared to my baseline normal for quidditch tournaments—running around frantically coordinating writers or typing out my own articles or directing the Keystone Cup—I had a pretty calm weekend for better or worse. I got to watch games with my uncle and sell snacks like I was a stadium vendor and live tweet the finals. Nevertheless, I generally like being very busy because it gives me some sense of purpose and I was trying to sort out my thoughts on the weekend on Sunday night.
Photo by Matt Dwyer
Then, as I finished my third slice of Angelo's specialty pizza, my phone started to buzz in my pocket. It was an unknown number from Boston, Massachusetts. My mind started to race. Before I left for to the restaurant, I sent out a press release to the Boston Globe, sharing that the Boston Night Riders won the MLQ Championship. It was one of maybe two hundred press releases I submitted to major news organizations over the course of the summer as the Media Outreach Coordinator for MLQ. Of course, 95 percent of the time, I never hear back from the media outlet and life goes on. I had been courting the Boston Globes, the Washington Posts and the New York Times of the world for most of the summer without success. But could it be?

It was loud in the restaurant but I heard it clear as day. I was speaking to a reporter from the Boston Globe. I rushed outside into the parking lot so I could hear. I answered a couple of questions about the rules of the game, the mission of the league and the history of quidditch in Boston. I promised to find more sources for the reporter to talk to. And that was that. I was terrified that I had accidentally slipped and given some embarrassing quote that would make the rest of the quidditch community collectively groan the next morning. For the rest of the night, I obsessively googled "Boston Globe quidditch" every twenty minutes, waiting for the article to pop up online.

Early Monday morning, I was at the William P. Hobby Airport, sitting down for a breakfast taco near my gate when my Google search produced what I was looking for. I read it through twice and I smiled like an idiot for the next few minutes. Mission accomplished. With a great event team, an undefeated champion and a lot of luck, Major League Quidditch made it into the Boston Globe.

The Radford Plate? The Homel Shield?
At the MLQ Championship, the battle for the Benepe Cup was a gripping contest involving the league's top teams. Boston, Austin, Indianapolis, League City and Los Angeles were all somewhat in the race for the league title at some point during the weekend. The games between these teams provided the most suspense of the weekend and played a direct role in determining the outcome of the tournament. The best-of-three finals series, especially, treated the crowd to an intense back-and-forth between superbly talented teams.

But what about the rest of the league? On the one hand, there was no shortage of fantastic games between the next tier of teams. San Francisco and Kansas City dueled in two close, compelling matches. New Orleans bested Washington and Salt Lake City and advanced late into Saturday, giving Indianapolis a real scare. Even Detroit held New York within striking distance for a while. Behind Boston and Austin, there was quite a lot of parity. For the most part, each team was a competitive and polished representative of its metropolitan area.
Photo by Matt Dwyer
Unfortunately, the rain delay left something to be desired. Because of the weather, no consolation games were played among the middle-of-the-road teams. And some players seemed happy about that. That was most troubling for me. Teams spent lots of money and time to get to League City and for whatever reason, some players didn't want to play almost assuredly well-matched consolation games? Maybe I just don't get it, but I wanted to propose a new structure for consolation matches borrowed from the World Rugby Sevens Series.

To start, Rugby Sevens is kind of like quidditch. Games are physical and short, broken down into two halves of seven minutes. Tournaments are contested over a two-day weekend and teams play multiple games each day. There is a preliminary round on Saturday and an elimination round on Sunday. There is also a gap between the best teams and the rest of the field in Rugby Sevens. The small island nation of Fiji is the two-time defending World Rugby Sevens Series champions. More recently, Fiji thrashed Great Britain by a score of 43-7 in the gold medal match at the 2016 Rio Olympics. Before Fiji, New Zealand dominated all competition, winning 12 out of the first 15 World Rugby Sevens Series.

That's why Rugby Sevens tournaments award more than one trophy. Meet the Cup, Plate, Bowl and Shield. The Cup is the first prize, presented to the champion of the tournament. After a preliminary round, the top four teams at a Rugby Sevens tournament compete for the Cup. The next four teams duke it out for the Plate. The four teams after that play for the Bowl. And the last four teams battle for the Shield. I created mock-up of this with seeding from Saturday at the MLQ Championship here.
Photo by Matt Dwyer
It's a smart and workable model for Major League Quidditch. It gives the next best quidditch cities more opportunities to play close games against teams with equal ability. If the Benepe Cup is seemingly out of reach, the Radford Plate or the Homel Shield gives coaches something to motivate their players with. Additional trophies provide more teams with something to shoot for and celebrate. More teams will be taking the silverware back to their hometown quidditch community, generating new energy and bringing more publicity around the sport.

Minor League Quidditch
Before players and volunteers boarded planes and descended on League City, Texas for the 2016 MLQ Championship, my longtime friend and former colleague in quidditch media Andy Marmer published Where MLQ Went Wrong in 2016 on the Quidditch Post. Marmer argued that the expansion of Major League Quidditch to the southern and western United States for the 2016 season was ultimately unsuccessful. Marmer wrote that the geographic stretch of the league had overextended players and volunteers and suggested that the league should have expanded to smaller northeastern and midwestern cities like Philadelphia, Raleigh, Richmond, Chicago, Minneapolis and St. Louis.

Make no mistake, there were bumps in the road along the 2016 season and every MLQ staffer would love to have more volunteers, but MLQ's southern and western expansion was exactly the right step forward. Any other move would have been disastrous for the league.
Photo by Matt Dwyer
Among the original eight teams, Boston has widened the gap, leaving only the Indianapolis Intensity anywhere near realistic striking distance. Without the addition of Austin, the spectators and players in League City would have missed out on a best-of-three finals series for the ages. In truth, most of Marmer's expansion cities are a clear cut below MLQ standards. On paper, sure, Chicago and Philadelphia are big cities, but they were passed over in the beginning for a reason. The quidditch scene in Chicago and Philadelphia is just much smaller than the typical MLQ city. I would say that very few of Marmer's expansion candidates could support a full 21-player roster. Maybe Minneapolis? Toronto? The rest of Marmer's expansion cities would probably produce a shell of a roster and give the league headaches all season. The number of out-of-snitch-range games would go up and the margin of victory in blowouts would soar into the hundreds.

Without any doubt in my mind, the additions of the South and West Divisions have raised the overall level of play in MLQ. Each expansion city brought enthusiasm, teamwork and talent to Hometown Heroes Park. And besides maybe the Phoenix Sol, every expansion city at the MLQ Championship clearly justified itself as a smart and worthy addition to the league. During the offseason, MLQ picked the eight next best cities for quidditch in North America and each of those cities by and large delivered. 57 percent of games at the MLQ Championship were within snitch range. There are very few other cities (maybe Miami, Minneapolis or Philadelphia) that could have stayed within snitch range of a middle-of-the-road MLQ expansion team like the Kansas City Stampede or even a lower-tier MLQ expansion team like the Phoenix Sol.
Photo by Matt Dwyer
In short, MLQ stayed true to its mission by expanding to Texas, California and more. Aiming to be the highest level of quidditch in North America, MLQ picked the best cities possible with the most experienced, talented and committed players. MLQ wants to be respected and consumed by the wider quidditch community and selecting the best cities available was the only way to further that goal.

Marmer's expansion cities are minor league quidditch cities in my opinion. And who knows? Maybe in three to five years, once MLQ has addressed some problems and grown comfortable with sixteen teams, a second division with Philadelphia, Richmond, Raleigh and the rest of them could be possible. Someday, I would love to compete as a player in a European soccer-style promotion and relegation system between two sixteen-team flights. But that's way off into the future. For now, let's celebrate the 2016 MLQ regular season and the 2016 MLQ Championship.

Jack McGovern is a Media Outreach Coordinator for Major League Quidditch. The views and opinions expressed on The QuidKid do not represent the views and opinions of Major League Quidditch. 

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Departing Players Database 2016

The Departing Players Database lists players who will not be returning to their most recent USQ teams from the 2015-16 season for the new 2016-17 season.

QC Boston
Ethan Sturm
Sheldon Bostic
David Fox

Ben Pfander 
Greg Bento 
Hannah deBaets 
Mari Fromstein 
Jordan Anderson

Rochester United
Eric Wasser

Lisle Coleman
Anna Parker
Jack Venuti
Guntis Runtins
Eugene Rohrer

Matthew Niederberger
Andrew Hollenbach

SUNY Geneseo
Patrick Damon Bouge
Kelsey Colberg
Patrick Shea
Layna Gray
Brianna Nelson
Kayleigh Stumbaugh

Chris Rothery 
Kelsey West 
Gus Castillo
Michael Merwin
Greg Brazis 
Nick Schnurr 
Sam Bailey 
Ben Bussman
Laura Hossenlopp

Griffin Conlogue
Leeanne Dillmann
Austin Mohn
Jez Insalaco
Zac Conlogue
Steph Breen

Adam Kwestel
Jaime Colon
Mike Iadavaia
Elissa Salamy

Ricky Nelson
Andrew Zagelbaum
Gabe Obregon (to Richmond Spiders)
Michael Pascutoi (retired)
Colleen O'Mara

Luke Espina 
Jennifer Freund 
Aaron Wiliams
Mid Atlantic
Ben Tunick
Isabella Newton
Liz Eveling
Jacob Knippel

North Carolina
Chris Champitto
Emma Troxler
Courtney Reynolds
Kyle Bullins (only fall semester)

Abby Hegarty
Brendan O'Connor
John Clikeman
Dan Waddell
Josh Lawrence
Katie Rothert
Tim Binns
Garrett Fundakowski

George Mason
Ben Mertens
Jonathan Milan
Olivia Bascle
Brendan Fribley
Arielle Flax

Carlos Metz
James Hicks
Jimmy Pritz
Patrick Rardin
Max Miceli

Philly Honey Badgers
Isobel Rennie
Elaine Zhou
Jason Rosenberg
Zak Hewitt
Rae Lemashov

Great Lakes
Andrew Axtell
Matt Oppenlander
Dylan Schepers
Zach Schepers
Christopher Rock
Benjamin Griessmann
Lisa Lavelanet
Maddy Novack
Meaghan O'Connell
Matthew Oates
Andre Grosse

Michigan State
Jim Richert
Ian Hoopingarner
Jacob Heppe
Isaak Willard
Rachael Firehammer

Grand Valley State
Gabe Unick
Holly Crevier
Tyler Nagy
Isaac Schipper

Ohio State
Matt Eveland
Julie Fritz
Brien Povlika

Bowling Green
Daniel Daugherty
David Hoops
Kendall Kuhn
Noah Cochran
Mike Gallagher
Alex Closson
Sara McCullough
Meredith Taylor
Pari Yost
Katie Milligan
Emily Dick
Kaitlin Richard

Southern Indiana*
Cole Musgrave
Shane Ritz

Matt Loberg
Charlotte Tierney
Colin Omilanowski

Gabriel Johnson
Corey Cockrum
Kristen Recker Argyres

Shane Bouchard
Nathan Cyr
Courtney Chediak
Brian Kessler

Alexander Blass
Peter Svihra

Florida's Finest
Sean Snipes
Justin Goodman
Adam Treichel
Nick Zakoske
Richard Crumrine
Sarah Simko

Florida State*
Annabelle Blevins
Jared Bufkin
Billy Mauer
Ben Pifer
TJ Taylor
Jamin Weeks

Southern Storm*
Anderson Breeland
Tyler Hemerly
Christa Kelly
Ray Taylor

Kashi Anand
Bridgette Foster
Bernie Berges
German Barrios

Texas A&M
Sam Keegan Adlis
Chris Beck
Katie Stewart
Cody McKenzie

Gulf Coast Gumbeaux
Shelby Newcomer
Dylan Greenleaf
Melissa White
Heather Burg

Loyola New Orleans
Etefia Umana
Steen Gergen
Eric Jurgeson
Keevy Narcisse
Gabe Garza
Jake Gomrick
Sian Hairston
Tyler Steele

Josh Mansfield
Rachel Ayella-Silver

Arizona State*
Tyler Ortiz

Los Angeles Gambits*
Richard Arreola
Matthew Ziff

Lost Boys*
Margo Aleman
Tiffany Chow

Anteater Quidditch*
James Luby

Santa Barbara Blacktips*
Brian Vampola
Elisabeth Ingeberg Jorstad

Remington Conatser
Ryan Parsons
Nicte Sobrino

Crimson Elite
Kristin Jakus
Dakota Briggs
Jensen Morgan
Dan Hanson

Badal Chandra
Michael Binger
Nicole Remsburg
Kevin Horn
Devin Pearson
Duran Alison
Ryan Seaton
Roger Thompson


*Denotes reporting by the Quidditch Post's 2016 Free Agent Database.

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Interview with USQ Membership Director Eric Schnier

From the college community split survey to the new program for next season, US Quidditch's Membership Department has been busy! I wanted to talk to Membership Director Eric Schnier, who was hired to replace Katie Stack in January, about the last six months and his goals for the future.

How would you describe the membership department when you took over in January? How would you describe the department today?

I think the Membership Department was in good shape when I took over. Katie’s work for the league can’t be understated. While the overall projects the department is working on are still the same (refs, snitches, regional coordinators, rules, youth quidditch, etc), I’ve done a lot of work in redefining goals for the department so that new progress can be made, particularly for referees and snitches.

Last week, US Quidditch released a strategic plan update and a college/community split survey. Why now? Did the results from the 2015-2016 season influence the timing?

Believe it or not, they didn’t. The timing for the college/community split has been based on the focus group polling USQ did last summer and the strategic plan that resulted from them. I was hired in January and starting work on this split was one of my first projects, before any Spring regionals. Obviously, we weren’t working in a vacuum, unaware of what was happening this season, but the experiences of this past season only reinforced what we already knew.

Which questions on the college/community split survey are you watching most closely? Why? When will the results be published?

The most important ones are probably the questions about members’ ideal timelines for the split. I think we can hammer out as many of the details as we want and put together a fleshed-out proposal, but if we make the change a year early or late, the split won’t be as effective as it needs to be. Look for a summary of the results to be released in the coming weeks.

What will be the Membership Department's role as US Quidditch continues with the college/community split process? What issues or problems do you anticipate?

The role will essentially stay the same. Both divisions of the league will get the same services and attention from USQ. As a league, there’s no preference for collegiate or community teams, so both divisions will be using the same rulebook, which means they can use the same certification standards for refs and snitches. The regional coordinators will be working with all their teams in both divisions, like they already do. It will mean more work in keeping things organized between the two divisions, but I don’t anticipate any significant issues.

In the strategic plan update, US Quidditch passed over separating divisions for now. Does US Quidditch or the Membership Department have any responsibility to less competitive unofficial quidditch teams?

Yes and no. On one hand, USQ wants to grow quidditch as a sport and make it as big and as good as it can be, which means we want to be in contact with unofficial teams and we want to understand what we can do that would make them more interested in joining the league officially. On the other hand, we have to prioritize work on programs for the benefit of our current member teams. As much as I’d like to work with everybody who plays quidditch, officially or not, we need to make sure that our focus remains on current member teams.

For the first time, certified snitch runners were compensated at Quidditch Cup 9. What feedback did US Quidditch receive from snitches, refs and players? What's the future of snitch runner compensation?

The snitches loved it! Refs and players didn’t really provide significant feedback one way or the other, but all of the snitches, whether they were certified or not, were happy to have the opportunity to be compensated. This coming season, certified snitches will be compensated in all official games, which I think will lead to more people attempting certification. Using a certified snitch for every official game won’t be mandated this year, but whenever a certified snitch does an official game, compensation will be required. USQ events will also primarily use certified snitches. Snitch team is currently working on overhauling the snitch certification process so that being certified is more of an accomplishment than it has been in the past.

The number of official member teams has hovered around 170 for the past four years. Do you see this as a problem? Why has membership growth slowed? How can you get to 250 official member teams? 500 official member teams?

It hasn’t actually been around 170, it’s been a little lower than that. During the 2014-15 season, we had 161 official teams, versus 173 in 2015-16. While it’s not a huge growth year-to-year like we had between 2011-12 and 2012-13 (a 28-team growth), the league is still growing. As for how we can reach those milestones, our whole strategic plan was created for growth and stability. The league has significantly improved in quality of reffing, quality of events, etc. in the past few years. I think it’s important that, before we expand by 75 teams between seasons, we are capable of handling that many teams and new players.

Quidditch is more and more expensive for players today. Are there any changes to grants or sponsorships on the horizon? Can US Quidditch use grants to achieve specific goals with regions or demographics?

I think a lot of the increased cost of quidditch has come as the sport is becoming more “legitimate.” While a few years ago, it wasn’t uncommon to see teams wearing homemade t-shirt jerseys, using homemade brooms and hoops at tournaments, or playing without cleats or gloves, these have all been replaced by professionally made alternatives. This is a good thing, as the professional equipment is a higher quality, and creates an all around more legitimate feel to our events, but it has increased costs. Not to say that USQ costs haven’t also increased, but I think proportionately, USQ costs have been much more stagnant than what teams/players are willing to pay for uniforms, equipment, and travel to tournaments. As USQ costs have risen, however, so too has the sum for our team sponsorship grant.

What accomplishment are you most proud of during your tenure at US Quidditch?

So far, I think it’s just been managing the transition from Katie to me to be as smooth as it was. Aside from that, I’ve addressed several issues within our volunteer base to revitalize them and make sure everybody understands their roles, what is expected of them, and what to do when issues arise. The Membership Director oversees the most volunteers in the league, and I met with each one of them one-on-one within the first month of my tenure. I plan to do that again as the season kicks off. Most of the work I’ve done thus far is going to be being implemented in the coming weeks and months, so outside of the snitch compensation plan and the new rulebook, there’s fewer tangible things to point at.

What are your long term goals for the Membership Department? What will the Membership Department do on average day in three years?

The biggest goal is in continued growth, but also stabilization, of the league. Building self-sustaining referee and snitch programs, for one. Three years from now, I hope we aren’t working on releasing major changes each offseason, but rather can devote more time to things like community outreach and multiple levels of youth quidditch that will really push the envelope in legitimizing and solidifying quidditch as a sport for years to come.

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

MLQ Week One Review

The second season of Major League Quidditch is underway! Despite the rescheduling of the series in League City, the opening weekend of Major League Quidditch proceeded in Kansas City and San Francisco, introducing the quidditch community to four of the league's newest franchises. The road teams finished 6-0, mostly affirming preseason season predictions. But the matches were not without drama, highlighted by the Kansas City Stampede's accidental snitch catch in the second game against the Austin Outlaws. On the West Coast, the San Francisco Argonauts outscored the Salt Lake City Hive in average quaffle points per game, but thanks to two game-winning snitch catches, walked away with three losses.

Entering the season, I was not sure whether Major League Quidditch would deliver competitive matches every weekend. The best teams in the league are experienced, athletic and cohesive units, capable of running away with games. With many expansion teams in new cities, I was watching carefully to see what teams like Kansas City and San Francisco produced on the field. I am a strong believer that a league is only as strong as its weakest link and any semblance of rising inequality between teams could become a problem for Major League Quidditch going forward. After the opening weekend, I am encouraged. Even Austin, a South division favorite and title-contender, faced a scare in their second game of the season. As the season marches on, I can only hope for more weekends with close calls for the favorites.
Ginger Snaps Photography
Kansas City Stampede vs. Austin Outlaws
Despite an undefeated record, Austin and its all-star cast of former World Cup champions and Team USA veterans have some adjustments to make. At times during the second game especially, Austin's half-court offense looked cautious and uninspiring. I would like to see a quicker pace from the South favorites with more fast breaks. Sure, Austin might commit a couple more turnovers, but more often than not, their experience, athleticism and chemistry will put ten points on the scoreboard.

Speeding the game up and getting into the open field is only part of the answer. A perfect fast break provides an adrenaline rush beyond the satisfaction of a successful half-court possession. It's a way to assert dominance and demoralize opponents. All the greatest teams have done it. Sometimes, moments from fast breaks live forever in the memory of the quidditch community, as when Stephen Bell lobbed a half-court pass to an airborne Simon Arends for an alley-oop at World Cup 8. While Bell can rush up and down the field, Michael Duquette and the beaters bear most of the responsibility for the pace of gameplay. In the past, Duquette has thrived in chaos, freeing up space for his chasers and keepers to show off their talents. I think Austin could benefit from being less surgical and more free-flowing, having confidence that a chaotic environment will separate the contenders from the pretenders.
Ginger Snaps Photgraphy
Additionally, Austin has to integrate new faces into the lineup. Nothing energizes a group of quidditch veterans like a younger phenom. Last year, breakout stars like Teddy Costa and Lindsay Marella boosted their teams to the finals at MLQ Championship Weekend. I saw too many of the same old faces on the field at the same time for Austin. For example, Stephen Bell and Augustine Monroe should rarely, if ever, play on the same line. Like last year's Boston Night Riders, Austin ought to spread the veterans out and mix and match them with the younger players. At tryouts, the captains and coaches of Austin saw at least something from every single player on the roster today. If they experiment, the team's leaders will eventually find a place where the lesser known players can show their hidden talents. Please, give me some new names to write about!

On to Kansas City now, where there are some newer names to write about. At this point, Adam Heald should be a household name in the quidditch community. Heald, a tall, lanky keeper in the mold of former Team USA keeper Zach Luce, has clocked many minutes for the University of Kansas over the past few years. As a ballhandler, Heald is a patient, skilled passer and a slippery driver. However, for Kansas City, Heald's best moments happened around the hoops. When he jogs into the keeper zone, Heald becomes a weapon, giving his team a large target for alley-oops. Like Washington Admirals chaser Darren Creary, Heald enjoys a height advantage and good hands. In the blink of an eye, a Hail Mary pass can turn into ten points. If better all-around teams like Austin ease into a half-court game against Kansas City, Heald will be ready to make something out of nothing.
Ginger Snaps Photography
Otherwise, Kansas City also benefits from a speed advantage over similar middle-of-the-table teams. Whether it's Hai Nguyen or Hayden Applebee, Kansas City can catch better teams off guard with a quick cut and pass to the goal. In the first series of the season, Kansas City only showed glimpses of their offensive potential. Mostly, Austin's defense clogged up the middle and out-muscled Kansas City's chasers on the perimeter. But as they run more drills and develop more plays, Kansas City's offense will become more crisp and more dangerous.

San Francisco Argonauts vs. Salt Lake City Hive
I hate to disappoint but I do not feel comfortable analyzing the West's first series at this point. I will return to both San Francisco and Salt Lake City once I have more time and video.

Jack McGovern is the Media Outreach Coordinator for Major League Quidditch.