Tuesday, July 1, 2014

The Northwest: In Defense of USQ

Note: The following does not represent the opinions of USQ.
Photo by Kat Ignatova
The birth of the Northwest region, a section of the expansive West that has stagnated thanks to extreme isolation, has been met with unexpected controversery. Obviously, the creation of a new region and the promise for a regional championship requires significant resources. Some have questioned whether the Midwest, which will likely face a regional with upwards of 30 teams, needed a split more. My best guess is that USQ Management looked long and hard at splitting the nation's heartland before realizing that a split would be more challenging and less rewarding than it appeared (especially with Peoria's bid for the Midwest Regional Championship being withdrawn). 

I talked to Logan Anbinder, the first regional director of the Mid-Atlantic, about the challenges of creating and developing a new region from exisiting regions. "One challenge is creating a unique regional identity,"Anbinder said. "Players identify strongly with their own regions, and creating a new identity for a new region is important not only for the extant teams, but to build a culture that fosters new team growth."

The current Midwest region has developed one of the strongest regional identities in USQ and teams from Ohio to Kansas seem to identify strongly with the Midwest. That has never been the case with the  Northwest. No Northwest team has ever cheered "West Coast, Best Coast!" at a World Cup to support a fellow West team. Every Midwest team has screamed "COOOOORNNNN" at a World Cup to cheer on their regional rivals. Very few Northwest teams have even attended a West Regional Championship or Western Cup. The Midwest has seen champions from both extremes of the region in Kansas and BGSU. 

USQ all-but-assured that the Midwest split will occur next summer, giving the organization tons of time to prepare for the addition of a larger, more demanding region. For a league that hasn't added a region since Middlebury was the dominant power, starting modestly--with the small, happy-to-just-be-remembered Northwest--seems very smart. The Northwest will need significantly fewer volunteers to serve its teams than a Midwest split woud require. While some feel the Northwest has been given special treatment because USQ COO Alicia Radford lives in Seattle, the "special treatment" (or "conspiracy" depending on who you talk to you) really makes perfect sense for the organization. Having USQ's COO available to guide the new region makes the addition an even safer investment. 

The timing of the Northwest's birth is key too. Last summer, Seattle hosted QuidCon and this summer, Global Games will come to Burnaby, BC. "The time between QuidCon 2013 and Global Games 2014 has seen a lot of growth in this region," said Eric Andres, the founder of Emerald City Admirals Quidditch, "and I think those who attend Global Games will benefit greatly from seeing our sport at its highest caliber."

Waiting until next summer to create the Northwest would have been a terrible waste of QuidCon 2013 and the Global Games because even if new teams sprouted up, geography and travel distance from West tournaments would continue to doom teams' desire to play competitive quidditch. New teams would have popped up and then disappeared very quickly. The new Northwest regional staff will ensure that new teams have the opportunity to play in tournaments at reasonable travel distances, play in a regional championship, compete for berths to World Cup VIII and "get hooked" on quidditch. 
Photo by Kat Ignatova
The final thing to remember is that USQ Upper Management has to prioritize the growth of the sport. The growth of the sport leads to more due-paying members, which leads to a larger budget, which leads to the possibility of adding more regions and regional championships, more paid staff and better events. Additionally, Upper Management now depends on the growth of the sport for their job and salary. 9/10 corporations would have made the same decision. The Northwest is a terrific market that USQ has struggled to tap in to with the current regional structure. The people in Oregon and Washington have already flocked to sports like ultimate and Major League Soccer. The culture in the Northwest is ideal for the growth of quidditch. 

So yes, the Midwest Regional Championship will probably be crowded this year and will present a huge challenge for its volunteers and first-year RD Alex Scheer. USQ should be able to pour extra resources into the Midwest Regional Championship to ensure its success. Scheer and the Midwest certainly deserve that. However, I'm confident that having an extra year to prepare for the Midwest split will be as valuable to USQ as having an extra year to prepare for World Cup VI, the IQA's first spring World Cup, was and that the Northwest will have a successful inaugural season.


  1. Of course no northwest team has cheered west coast best coast at World Cup, no nw teams made it there