The Eighth Man

From the Ice to the Pitch

Players from The Lost Boys watch the game as they stand ready to substitute at a moment’s notice. Credit: Sarah Coleman

 

When trying to describe quidditch to people that are unfamiliar with the sport, comparisons to other sports are often used.  It’s a lot like rugby/football mixed in with dodgeball.  With the fast pace and the scoring of the quaffle through the hoop, it is most akin to basketball.  The constant action and lack of timeouts is much like soccer.

 

A sport that is often left out of the discussion is ice hockey, which many people associate only with ice, hockey sticks, and pucks.  However, both sports share many characteristics.  For one, both games are fast-paced, with players changing direction at a moment’s notice.  Stoppages are mostly due to penalties/infractions, and both sports have penalty boxes.  Both sports use three forwards (chasers), two defensivemen (beaters), and a goaltender on each team.  Even the referee structure is similar, with the referees supported by linesmen (bludger referees), and goal judges.

 

One of the biggest similarities between the two sports is the way that players are substituted into and out of the game.  Unlike other sports, quidditch and hockey allow for teams to change their players on the fly.  There is no check-in process that the players have to follow, only that they must be not knocked-out, drop any game balls prior to substitution, and adhere to the gender rule.  Since quidditch matches are so short, it is essential that coaches know how to substitute their players in order to fit the current strategies and tactics of the game.  Every second wasted eats into the time before the snitch returns to the pitch.

 

With the fast pace of both games, some strategies from hockey may be very advantageous to a quidditch team.

 

 

Mix Up Lines

In hockey, players are grouped together into lines based on skill and chemistry.  In quidditch, the best players typically play on the first line, but if the fantasy tournaments taught us anything this past summer, it’s that having all the best players on the same line does not necessarily always work.  Try to group players that have complementary skill sets; if you have a chaser that loves to score, try to pair them with exceptional passers.  This way, you are maximizing what each chaser brings to the table, rather than asking three star chasers to share the ball.

 

If you can scout your opponent in advance, create lines that are geared for specific purposes.  A line of smaller, speedier chasers might do better against a team of larger, slower chasers.  You do not need to keep them in the game for long; after scoring, you can sub out your smaller line with larger line for defense.

 

 

Establish Clear Communication

Any coach can attest to the fact that coaching on the fly is extremely difficult.  Quidditch is a dynamic sport where strategies can literally change in an instant.  Establish clear names for all of your lines, such as naming each line after a chaser, preferably their last name.  If your team utilizes specific player lines for power plays or penalty kills, make sure each person knows which line they are on.  By establishing clear lines of communication before your team step on the pitch, they will be able to react quickly to coaching decisions when time is of the essence.

 

 

Shorten Shifts    

Players don’t want to sit on the bench for an entire quidditch match.  Since games can end in as little as seven minutes, players have the tendency to try to stay out on the pitch as long as possible.  The glaring problem is that many players overexert themselves and can hurt their team on defense.  Using statistics from NHL.com, the average hockey forward spends approximately 30-45 seconds on the ice per shift (defensivemen, who exert less energy, spend one minute).  The goal is simple: lower the length of each shift, and increase the amount of energy exerted.  If you can get your team to buy-in to shorter line shifts, you can see an improvement in the speed and quality of your players.  Having shorter shifts also helps prevent fatigue, especially for teams with smaller rosters.  This is especially important during tournaments with extremely hot weather where preserving the energy of your players is paramount.

 

 

Specialty Players

Players don’t necessarily need to have dual roles in order to fulfill specific jobs, and specialization can go further than just splitting players into positions.  For example, certain hockey players are inserted into the game for specific situations: some players are defensive specialists that only come in during man-down situations, or some players come into the game just to win a face-off.  These types of strategies can be used in quidditch as well.  If you find yourself on a team with several fast seekers, you can use them as chasers and beaters for brooms-up.  Once they gain possession of the game balls, have them immediately substitute out and give the balls to the real chasers and beaters.

 

This can also be done to regain bludger control as well.  It is common to see beaters who are extremely effective when they have bludger control, but rather ineffective otherwise.  In these instances, it may be wise to substitute an aggressive chaser as a beater to tackle or strip the ball away from opposing beaters.  Once the bludger is obtained, the player then sprints back to the sideline to substitute out and gives the bludger over to the experienced beater.  By giving specific jobs to players, regardless of position, you can find value in each and every one of your players.

 

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