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

University of Rochester Thestrals
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

Syracuse Snare
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

Macaulay Marauders
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

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

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

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

Gulf Coast Gumbeaux
Shelby Newcomer
Dylan Greenleaf
Melissa White
Heather Burg

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.

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

MLQ Season Preview

The second season of Major League Quidditch is finally here! All sixteen teams are ready and opening weekend matches begin this weekend in League City, Kansas City and San Francisco.

Blast from the Past and Into the Future
For longtime quidditch players and fans, the Austin Outlaws are more than just a blockbuster summer alliance between the city's premier community teams. With seven players from the University of Texas squad at World Cup VI, the Austin Outlaws are a long-awaited reunion. More than four years ago now, Texas romped to the title as the greatest team in the short history of quidditch. Soon after, the team dissolved with several graduates forming Lone Star Quidditch Club and Augustine Monroe sticking around to lead Texas to two more championships. At the time, quidditch pundits assumed that Monroe would inevitably join Lone Star, ending the all-star community team's World Cup woes and establishing a reign of invincibility. Everyone always believed Lone Star would be the first community team to win a national championship.

Now, the biggest names from Lone Star and Texas Cavalry have united, entering the season as the odds-on favorite to win the South. But the national quidditch landscape has changed markedly. In January, Quidditch Club Boston flew into Austin and left as the consensus number one. Then, they did it again in Columbia, breaking the hearts of Lone Star in the semifinals. Today, many of the same names are back on the roster and revving up for the season with the defending champion Boston Night Riders. Yes, the Austin Outlaws enter Major League Quidditch as an underdog. That much is clear. But how will they handle it?
Photo by Jessica Jiamin Lang
If history lends any clues, the Austin Outlaws are happy to let their northeastern counterparts carry the weight of expectations. For three years in a row, Augustine Monroe and Texas knocked off the consensus number one team at World Cup. Of course, many of those players from Texas A&M and Lone Star who suffered agonizing losses year after year will also be wearing the blue and black. Peddled by quidditch writers like me, the narrative about Lone Star has been a cruel and unfair burden over the years. The eleven Austin Outlaws who have played for Lone Star now have a chance to flip the script.

Barring something out of the ordinary, both the Boston Night Riders and the Austin Outlaws will win their divisions without dropping a game. And when both teams arrive in League City, the Boston Night Riders will still be the favorites. There's not much the Austin Outlaws can do until then. Simply put, they need to ease into the routine of summer practices and get comfortable playing the long game. Then, and only then, can the Austin Outlaws deliver the Benepe Cup for the Southwest.

The Flour City Blossoms in the North
Last spring, when the inaugural eight franchises were announced, every city made sense except Rochester. Major League Quidditch located teams in two national capitals, a city that never sleeps and at least two self-proclaimed Titletowns. With a population of only 200,000 and no major professional sports teams, Rochester seemed out of place.
Photo by Jessica Jiamin Lang
But at the time, something was beginning to happen in Rochester. For years, on the periphery of the Northeast region, the University of Rochester and Rochester Institute of Technology competed regularly in a back-and-forth, crosstown rivalry. The teams and players from Rochester were mostly overlooked and failed to break through onto the national stage until World Cup 8. In Rock Hill, a supersized University of Rochester, bolstered by Shane Hurlbert, Kyle Savarese and Alyssa Giarrosso from RIT, became the first Northeast team to beat a Southwest powerhouse, Baylor University.

Since then, the same group of players has mostly stuck together, climbing each new mountain and surpassing expectations every time. Finishing with a winning record in the closely contested North, the Rochester Whiteout battled through tight games, working out of the kinks. Shane Hurlbert blossomed into a star, demanding our attention by leading the league with an eye-popping 32 goals. By the fall, Rochester United, clad in stylish new uniforms, traveled far and wide with short rosters, impressing with nonstop goal scoring. Skipping the Bat City Showcase, Rochester United zeroed in on the national championship and ended up in the championship game. Yet again, Rochester United reached higher, forcing overtime and pushing their regional rivals to the limit.
Photo by Jessica Jiamin Lang
So where do the Rochester Whiteout stand now? Heading into their second season of Major League Quidditch, they are the favorites in the North, right? Well, not so fast. Once again, the North looks to be an haven of top-to-bottom competitive quidditch. While the Boston Night Riders, Austin Outlaws and Los Angeles Guardians are all heavy favorites in their divisions, the North lacks a clear frontrunner. If you want snitch range games and close series, the North is the place for you. The Rochester Whiteout are not the only group of players coming off a successful US Quidditch season. Of course, Ball State University, which finished higher than any other college team at the national championship, sends many players to the Indianapolis Intensity and Bowling Green State University, which reached the quarterfinals, feeds into the Cleveland Riff. And for the second year in a row, that's the three-way race at the top of the North: Rochester, Indianapolis and Cleveland.

With the season nearly upon us, each team must be asking; how will the North be won? First off, each team has at least one game-changing male beater. The trio of Kyle Savarese, Tyler Walker and Max MacAdoo leaves no team vulnerable in today's world of hyper-aggressive beating. In the chaser game, I am hard pressed to find a depth advantage. The easy answer perhaps, lies with the seeking game. The Indianapolis Intensity boast the services of two Team USA seekers: Jeff Siwek and Jason Bowling. But I am not sure that seeking will be decisive. Remember, Sam Roitblat, seeker for the Cleveland Riff, performed superbly for Team USA two years ago at the Global Games. More importantly, as I wrote above, I do not see any seeker beating mismatch.
Photo by Jessica Jiamin Lang
From what I can tell, Shane Hurlbert separates the Rochester Whiteout from their division rivals. Hurlbert, a clear first team All-American this past season, has always played with a chip on his shoulder. Hurlbert's rise to the top has been powered the old fashioned way: an indefatigable hunger to be the best. Every time I submitted my ballot for the Eighth Man rankings, I knew that Hurlbert would be checking where his team was ranked. In the online quidditch community, Hurlbert is always one of the first voices to attack a college/community split. I get the sense that winning a community team national championship would not be satisfying for Hurlbert. He wants to leave no doubt. While some community teams might take next year's US Quidditch season less seriously, Hurlbert and Rochester United will assuredly be back in title contention. Hurlbert is a competitor and if I am playing in the North, I want him on my team. No team has found a foolproof answer for Hurlbert yet. The goals, the assists and the snitch catches will keep multiplying and that's why I like the Rochester Whiteout to eke out first place in the North.

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

Monday, May 9, 2016

Depth Perception from Home

The weekend of April 16th and 17th was just another busy weekend for me. My AP tests were quickly approaching and I worked hour after hour, reading American history and practicing calculus problems. I was determined and laser-focused, aiming to prove myself to anyone and everyone who stopped and looked. Yet, in the back of my mind, five years of memories floated around. My eye-opening trip to World Cup IV, situated among the skyscrapers and traffic of Manhattan. My thrilling journey as junior reporter for the Florida Quidditch Conference at World Cup V. The optimism of World Cup VI, as the quidditch community celebrated a flawless champion, a likable Cinderella and warm weather. And more recently, teaming up with so many amazing people and flooding the official website with recap articles at World Cups VII and VIII. Five years of airports, hotels, restaurants and parks flashed by as I leafed through textbook pages from my bedroom.

Now eventually, by Sunday night, I tuned into the Livestream and watched Quidditch Club Boston vanquish Lone Star Quidditch Club in the semifinals and squeak past Rochester United for the championship. Without being on the ground in South Carolina, I feel like I have lost my place at the table of quidditch historians, but as the season ended, I had one big takeaway from gamefilm and livestreams.

Three years ago, depth was the key to success. At World Cup VI, Texas' legendary squad was absurdly talented from top to bottom. Since then, Texas A&M, Lone Star Quidditch Club, Texas and Texas State have hurled line after line of athleticism and physicality at each other in an annual war of attrition for the national championship. Non-Southwest teams watched from the sidelines in awe. How could a Northeast or Mid-Atlantic team ever assemble a more complete 21-man roster? The quidditch community largely accepted that the Southwest dominated interregional play because of overwhelmingly greater depth.

A couple weeks ago, QC Boston and Rochester United (and to a lesser degree, Ball State) dismantled the doctrine of depth. Both finalists boasted a skillful supporting cast, but like never before, they both worked with a short bench for the regular season and World Cup 9. Sometimes, two or three superstar players carried them to glory. The Northeast and Great Lakes finally triumphed over the Southwest not with a better second or third line, but with a better first line. While Lone Star recycled through equally talented lines, both Northeast finalists grouped their best players on a single dynamic, cohesive line.

Arguably, the current trend away from depth began last year, when Augustine Monroe and Michael Duquette dispatched the top-to-bottom most skilled team, Lone Star. Either way, depth almost seemed like a competitive disadvantage at World Cup 9. I'm not quite sure yet whether the new star-powered reality is good or bad for the sport. Of course, some professional sports like basketball emphasize superstars over depth and the NBA is doing fine the last time I checked.

But why has depth become less important? Perhaps, the advancement of hyper-aggressive beating has diminished the physicality of the chaser game, enabling star players to stay on the pitch longer. Or maybe the return of pool play allowed star players to rest on Saturday and save energy for bracket play. Or maybe the best players have more and more experience, justifying disproportionate minutes and transforming the lower end of the depth charts into cheerleaders. Maybe community teams, which sometimes struggle to maintain a full roster, are to blame. All of the above?

Anyways, I think that the current climate of quidditch favors short benches and superstars for the foreseeable future. For this and many other reasons, community teams seem the best prepared to fight through close matches and emerge victorious from major tournaments. However, I want to see how quickly the Southwest adapts. I do not honestly know if Southwest college teams have the talent the take down seasoned all-stars from Boston or Rochester or Los Angeles. From where I stand, Southwest community teams have two options. Shift towards Northeast-style hyper-aggressive beating and embrace shorter benches OR double down on depth and physicality.

The fast-approaching Major League Quidditch season will likely give us a better idea about the importance of depth in today's quidditch. As all sixteen teams set their sights on the defending champion Boston Night Riders, I will be watching how teams like the Austin Outlaws and Los Angeles Guardians approach the challenge ahead in League City, Texas.

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Joining Major League Quidditch

Readers of The QuidKid,
I am thrilled to announce that I have accepted the position of Media Outreach Coordinator for Major League Quidditch. 

After closely watching the trial season, I am confident that Major League Quidditch provides a unique opportunity to grow the sport of quidditch. I greatly admire the work already done by Amanda Dallas, Ethan Sturm and all of Major League Quidditch's volunteers and I believe that I can help. I want to create an environment where quidditch shines brightest. I envision Major League Quidditch as a beacon for our sport, attracting media outlets, sports fans and families alike to parks across the country. I am ready, Major League Quidditch is ready and I believe the quidditch community is ready to take our sport to the next level. 

I will also remain the Tournament Director of Keystone Cup Quidditch and the sole contributor of The QuidKid. Once again, I am joining the Marketing Department of Major League Quidditch effectively immediately. This is our shot and I can't wait to get started!


Friday, November 13, 2015

Looking Back and Looking Ahead

The Very Beginning
The weather could not have been better. The sun basked the park with warmth and leaves fluttered onto the turf. A refreshing breeze sailed off the Hudson River. The crisp November air carried the sounds of street traffic and cheerful voices. As the long shadows of office buildings receded across the park, college students mounted brooms, donned colored headbands and kicked off a momentous weekend of quidditch. From Saturday morning to Sunday night, thousands of New Yorkers wandered into DeWitt Clinton Park, pausing for a minute to piece together the bizarre sights and sounds. Media outlets descended on the neighborhood of Hell's Kitchen to relay an entertaining story to the world. The hustle-and-bustle of New York City had welcomed a child of rural Vermont.
Photo by Steve McGovern
Five years ago today, I watched quidditch for the first time. It was the fall of 2010 and I was two months into sixth grade. My transition to middle school had been rough. At school, I was unhappy, lonely and discouraged. Looking for refuge, I picked up the Harry Potter series and reveled in the world of Harry, Ron and Hermione. And quidditch. I had always loved sports and I eagerly anticipated the quidditch matches between Gryffindor, Ravenclaw, Hufflepuff and Slytherin. One day, I fired up my old Dell desktop computer and searched YouTube for quidditch clips from the Harry Potter movies. I wanted to see how directors, actors and computer cinematographers interpreted quidditch. Instead, I found how Middlebury College students made quidditch come to life. I stumbled across an advertisement for the International Quidditch Association's World Cup IV in New York City and began to hunt for more information.

It was surprisingly easy to convince my parents to take me to World Cup IV. I think my parents knew how unhappy I was at school and hoped that an adventure in the Big Apple would brighten my weekend. I remember counting down the days, trying to envision the spectacle. When my alarm clock beeped on the morning of Saturday, November 13th, I was already awake and ready to go. In the pitch black, my dad and I drove into Philadelphia and boarded a MegaBus at 30th Street Station. I leafed through the World Cup IV information packet on the New Jersey Turnpike, reviewing the rules, scanning the list of teams and tracing the route to the fields. Soon enough, the Manhattan skyline appeared and MegaBus dumped us in the shadow of Madison Square Garden. Then, my dad and I speed-walked 25 blocks through the Garment District and Hell's Kitchen, eager to arrive at our destination.
Photo by Steve McGovern
As we crossed the black gates into DeWitt Clinton Park, hundreds of quidditch players had formed a large oval around one pitch. The three remaining pitches stood eerily silent with chairs, hoops and balls waiting for the day to begin. I cautiously approached the oval and stood on a chair to peer over Penn State's quidditch team. The well-dressed master of ceremonies, IQA commissioner Alex Benepe, was wrapping up his remarks and prompting the congregation to yell "quidditch" at the top of our lungs. Why not? I joined the chorus and shouted "quidditch." I've never looked back.

Middlebury's Finest Hour
Games began shortly after the teams dispersed and I settled into a pitch-side fold-up chair. Once I nailed down the rules, I began to search for Middlebury's top competitors. From reading about quidditch online, I knew Middlebury was the three-time defending champions and I was immediately drawn to the intrigue of Middlebury's dynasty. Early on, I watched an athletic Michigan State squad dismantle its opponents. Physical players from LSU and Texas A&M foreshadowed the Southwest's bright future. Small liberal colleges like Vassar, Emerson and Chestnut Hill notched wins against larger universities. Because I was unfamiliar with quidditch strategy, I was more enamored with athleticism and chaser teamwork than anything else. The QuidKid was only a twinkle in my eye at World Cup IV, but the foundation for JackThePhan was there. I loved picking apart quidditch and finding the impact players.
Photo by Steve McGovern
Without a doubt, the highlight of the day was Middlebury's pool play schedule. I don't know how the pools were determined, but Middlebury faced both Pittsburgh and Michigan State in the preliminary round. The atmosphere around each and every Middlebury game was electric. Along with many others, I had circled Middlebury's games on my schedule and my dad and I arrived at the pitch early to claim seats. By brooms up, an enormous crowd encircled the pitch and buzzed with anticipation, recognizing that Middlebury's undefeated record was the on the line. Both contests against Pittsburgh and Michigan State were frantic, back-and-forth affairs. Packed four or five rows deep, spectators roared as Middlebury raced up and down the pitch. Out of the chaos, Middlebury produced immaculate passing, daring drives and clutch snitch catches. Pittsburgh and Michigan State proved worthy challengers, but Middlebury landed the knockout punch.

Looking back, I feel incredibly lucky to have witnessed Middlebury at the height of its dominance. Of course, Middlebury went on to claim the championship on Sunday, dispatching Villanova, Vassar and Tufts in bracket play. Say whatever you want about the brackets and the snitches at World Cup V, but never question whether Middlebury earned the championship at World Cup IV. Middlebury was the most athletic, most talented, most strategic, most organized team. Without any cupcake games, Middlebury faced the gauntlet and passed with flying colors.
Photo by Steve McGovern
Beyond the competition, World Cup IV truly offered the perfect spectator experience for me and many others. It was a different era and snitch antics and hilarious announcers meshed well with the whimsical mood. As an enthusiastic 11-year-old spectator, I was interviewed by the commentators on one field between games. And I distinctly remember one snitch scaling 20 feet into the stratosphere and perching atop a baseball backstop. It was unbelievable. It perfectly captured the boldness of quidditch at the time. Yet, I also recall seekers cornering over-ambitious snitches on city sidewalks and securing the snitch catch within minutes of brooms up. Throughout the weekend, it was clear that quidditch was evolving quickly and pivoting towards serious competition. Soon, off-pitch snitch catches and improv comedians would grow increasingly stale. Quidditch was reaching a crossroads, announcing itself to the wider world and enjoying the last hurrah of its Vermont roots.

When my dad and I left DeWitt Clinton Park around six o'clock, I knew that I wanted to stay connected to quidditch. Walking back to the MegaBus terminal, I wondered whether a nationwide college sport had a place for me. I dozed off to sleep somewhere between New York and Philadelphia, dreaming up endless possibilities for my quidditch future.

Back to the City
I can't honestly predict where I would be today without quidditch. I've attended five World Cups, worked hours and hours for US Quidditch, attracted almost 100,000 hits for my blog and organized two tournaments in my hometown. When everything else fails, quidditch has given me happiness and purpose. World Cup IV was the beginning of my personal quidditch journey, but its significance is even more far-reaching. 

Located in the heart of New York City, World Cup IV jumpstarted an era of rapid growth for quidditch. Along with thousands of spectators, media outlets flocked to DeWitt Clinton Park. NPR, CBS, ABC, NBC, CNN, FoxNews, Wired, Entertainment WeeklyTime and more all covered World Cup IV, capitalizing on the convenient location of the tournament. Perhaps more importantly, many of today's leaders within the quidditch community were deeply inspired at World Cup IV. The thrill of media, spectators and the city energized new captains and new recruits alike. Manhattan breathed life into quidditch, enabling unprecedented growth within the world of sport.

It's no secret that three consecutive South Carolina World Cups has limited publicity for quidditch in recent years. Media outlets only travel to South Carolina regularly for presidential primaries or college football. For quidditch's premier event, the spectator attendance in North Myrtle Beach and Rock Hill has been disappointing. Yet, South Carolina has a purpose for US Quidditch. Smaller cities offer financial incentives, including cheaper hotel rooms and cheaper food. Here's what I propose.

Every five years, World Cup should return to a major metropolitan area. The tournament should be held among skyscrapers, street vendors, subways and taxis in a true urban environment. Suburbs like Rock Hill and small cities like Columbia aren't good enough. The quidditch community would have to shoulder the burden of higher costs, but it would be an incredibly smart investment for the future. Every five years, a new major city would give quidditch a pick-me-up, helping to preserve and enhance quidditch's record-breaking growth. As US Quidditch narrows its choices for next year's national championship, I would encourage upper management to pause and remember the magic of World Cup IV. Five years ago today, an immature, young sport won my heart and captured my mind. And I was not alone. Now imagine combining an exciting urban atmosphere with the hard-hitting, fast-paced modern game of quidditch. Somewhere, the future bloggers, organizers and leaders of the quidditch community are out there, waiting patiently for quidditch to roll into town.