Wednesday, July 29, 2015

College Quidditch Needs Help Now

For too long, I've been missing-in-action. I produced minimal World Cup coverage and I barely commented on the departure of Alex Benepe and Alicia Radford. I passed on my departing players database to the Quidditch Post. I failed to blog about the start of Major League Quidditch. I still haven't written about Major League Quidditch. I never expressed any opinions about the European Games. As the quidditch landscape has changed, I've been silent. 

Now, I'm going to be loud.

1) A couple days ago, I returned from a pre-college program at Brown University. After countless hours watching quidditch, I finally had the opportunity to play quidditch at Brown. Shutting down offenses and assisting the perfect alley-oop reaffirmed my love of quidditch. Now, I know definitively that I want quidditch to be part of my college experience. College quidditch must still be around for me.

2) Yesterday, I read Augie Monroe's Op Ed: A Call for Separation. In an insightful, well-written piece, Monroe highlighted the appeal of intercollegiate competition for new recruits and the necessity of intercollegiate competition for club sport councils. Monroe proposed separate college and community divisions for the 2017 USQ Nationals.
Photo by Sofia de la Vega
With a newfound love for quidditch, I am proposing separate college and community divisions for the 2016 USQ Nationals. I am not an alarmist. I never use my blog to warn that quidditch is on the edge of an abyss. Nevertheless, the reality is that college quidditch has been drained by community quidditch. The separation of college and community teams must take place at the 2016 USQ Nationals. The 2017 USQ Nationals will be too late.

The Problem: Failures of Building and Rebuilding
World Cup 8 was not a good World Cup for college quidditch. The University of Texas' snitch-range victory over Lone Star Quidditch Club in the championship masked greater problems facing college quidditch. I saw several college quidditch programs kicking the bucket. I was even more troubled by the widespread stagnation of college programs. After World Cup 8, the way-too-early favorites for the next season were all the same universities or new community teams. No new college programs had made the jump into the upper echelon of competitive quidditch.With 50 percent of quarterfinalists and semifinalists, bracket play revealed the increasing dominance of experienced, all-star, postgraduate club teams.
Photo by Isabella Gong
As community teams enjoy success on the national stage, younger, inexperienced players on up-and-coming teams will miss out on magical World Cup runs. At World Cup 8, Virginia surged into bracket play and shocked Tufts in the opening round. Out of nowhere, Virginia was clicking on all cylinders and threatening a deep run into bracket play. Then, Virginia ran into the Lost Boys and the clock struck midnight at eight o'clock. Virginia's World Cup 8 run was ended prematurely. Deep World Cup runs are game-changers for newer college programs, providing momentum for the next season. Beyond Virginia, World Cup 8 lacked game-changing bracket play runs. Accordingly, I've heard little discussion of up-and-coming college programs. I've looked around, region-by-region, and I believe up-and-coming programs are disappearing.

Even at thriving college programs, successful rebuilding efforts have been exceedingly rare thanks to the heavy hand of community teams.Former regional champions UCLA and Miami never regained their World Cup VI-era noteworthiness. At the beginning of each season, each school still attracts new athletes. Yet, neither school has enjoyed sustained momentum. With UCLA and Miami alums, local community teams like the Lost Boys and Florida's Finest have triumphed over college programs again and again, demoralizing younger, inexperienced teams. In addition, Texas A&M was poached into irrelevance after World Cup VII. Texas A&M's rebuilding effort never really had a chance as long as Lone Star QC was looking for players. College programs need room to grow. Right now, the building and rebuilding efforts of college programs have been cramped by community teams.
Photo by Jessica Jiamin Lang
The Solution: A Call for Action
To renew and stimulate growth for college quidditch, USQ Nationals 2016 should feature separate college and community divisions. An intercollegiate division will give college programs room to grow and develop. Building and rebuilding efforts will not be stunted by community teams. College programs will earn more wins on the national stage, garner momentum for the next season, bring new recruits into quidditch and feed community teams for years to come. The community division would allow post graduate players to compete amongst themselves and stay involved with their alma maters or local college program.

An intercollegiate division will also increase the marketability of quidditch. I was drawn to quidditch by familiar college powerhouses like Texas A&M, Pittsburgh, Michigan State and LSU. I liked seeing familiar colors and jerseys. I felt like I had a connection to this weird and unfamiliar sport through familiar schools. Now, first-time quidditch spectators watch a weird and unfamiliar sport with unfamiliar community teams with weird names like Blue Mountain or LA Gambits. It would be much easier for USQ to advertise intercollegiate competition at the national championships. USQ can interact with the social media accounts of universities, reaching an eager audience of future quidditch fans. Once familiar intercollegiate competition hooks new quidditch spectators, then the new spectators can begin to understand community teams.
Photo by Jessica Jiamin Lang
Separate divisions for college and community teams at USQ Nationals will not reverse the stagnation of college programs alone. The problem begins at a regional level. However, separate college and community divisions for regionals and the regular season would be unwise until the 2017-2018 season.  Even without a regular season split, the quidditch community can further help resurrect college quidditch. Community teams can develop healthy, sustainable ties with local college programs and resist the urge to actively or passively poach college players. USQ can target college programs with strategic grants and resources. For USQ, an investment in college programs will pay off with more dues-paying members.

As the Tournament Director for Keystone Cup II, I can also help reenergize college quidditch. The Keystone Cup is an eight-team tournament aimed at the best teams in the Northeast, Mid-Atlantic and Great Lakes. Right now, I am pledging to reserve six of the eight spots for college programs. It's not that I hate community teams. Most of my friends within the quidditch community play for community teams. I recognize the hardships faced by community teams and I know community teams have contributed greatly to our sport. It's that college quidditch is dying. And if college quidditch dies, the whole sport will begin to die. College quidditch needs a bailout. Separate divisions for college and community teams at USQ Nationals 2016 is only the beginning. College quidditch needs our help now.


  1. I don't see any evidence that college quidditch is suffering in the slightest. From what I can see, new teams are continuing to spring up and grow, college quidditch is doing better than it ever has been. The only reason it looks to you like college quidditch is suffering is because you are confining your evidence to World Cup performance. And the reduced success of college teams there isn't because college teams are doing poorly, it is because community teams are finally beginning to come into their own. And that's great.

    World Cup isn't all there is to the sport. I've been playing regularly for a couple of years, and I've never attended a world cup. I don't know if I ever will attend Nationals. And I don't especially care. As the number of teams, both collegiate and community, continues to grow, and with the number of teams competing at Nationals shrinking, nationals will become more and more irrelevant to most players. As the sport grows, there will be more and more tournaments where more local teams compete with each other, and that will ease the logistical burden on both collegiate and community teams. We're seeing that happening, and it is wonderful. And it means that for more and more quidditch players, what happens at Nationals just won't matter.

    I also don't see much discussion of the mechanism by which you think community teams undermine the success of college teams. Do college students run away in fear when they see non-students on the field? What is so awful to a college student about playing with us? The closest I see is what you derogatorily term "poaching". And if a college student wants to play for a community team, and the community team wants that player, how is that not a good outcome for everyone? There are several college students on the team I play for, and as far as I can tell it is great for everyone. College students should be encouraged to participate in activities with other adults who are not students, they shouldn't be funneled just into on-campus activities.

    And that leads me to the real problem I have with your proposal. Creating separate divisions plays into a mentality that a lot of people seem to have of looking at college students as just old children rather than adults. You aren't children or kids. You are full adults, fully capable of participating in all of society, not just your campus. Claim that status. Take pride in it. Recognize that you have started your adult lives, and choose what you want to do with it. And if you want to play for a Nationals class team, and you have the skill to do it, consider whether a local community team is a better place to do it than your schools team. Don't feel bound to one or the other. Find what you want to do and do it, whether it happens to be on campus or off campus. That is what being an adult is all about.

  2. The problem with your argument Frank is that clearly the college competition suffers as evidenced by the results at the US Cup. The final rounds were dominated by community teams this year. No that's no the end all, but it is the most high profile event that many casual and new observers see. Also, it's pretty obvious that a team full of players with 4, 5, 6, 7 years experience will have an advantage over teams with incoming new freshman and outgoing seniors. Should college teams compete with NBA teams in basketball? Sure college and community teams can continue to play each other in friendlies, and at Opens, but it only makes sense, for competitive purposes, to split officially.