The Eighth Man

Thanksgiving Roundtable

 

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With the quidditch world taking a break for the weekend to stuff its collective faces and watch that other full-contact sport, The Eighth Man gathered together its writers at the Thanksgiving table to discuss a feast of questions on the world of quidditch, from running up the score to the world’s top teams. So grab some leftover turkey, loosen up that belt, and dive headfirst into our first-ever roundtable.

 

Thanksgiving Roundtable

 

 

Is it alright for teams to run up the score in top-tier tournaments? Should the IQA and tournament directors be rating teams based on metrics that discourage this?

 

Dan Hanson (Lost Boys): I don’t think it’s disrespectful. If you’re getting the score run up on you, there’s a simple phrase for you: if you can’t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen.

 

Curtis Taylor (Marquette University): I feel that a team should win and move on. Demoralizing the teams that we play really keeps others from feeling good about play.

 

Kevin Oelze (Silicon Valley Skrewts):  A team and its captains have a responsibility to do what it takes to ensure they finish as best as they can in a tournament. If there are no guards against running up the score and point differential is of major importance in the tiebreakers, I would say that a team is being irresponsible by not running up the score.

 

Sarah Woolsey (University of Maryland): It’s also possible that a team, without intentionally trying to raise their point differential, will play a team that they will beat by a large number of points, due simply to skill level.

 

Sarah Kneiling (Louisiana State University): Tournament directors need to recognize that running up the score is detrimental towards newer teams, and discourages them from wanting to play more top teams and better themselves. It is on the directors to use tiebreakers that do not encourage running up the score.

 

Luke Changet (Ohio State University): Instead of point differential, use point differential per minute. Or, put a cap on how many points per game are added to the team’s total point differential – I’d suggest 150.

 

Alan Black (Utah Crimson Fliers): But creating an arbitrary cap on the number of points that count towards point differential creates all sorts of new problems.

 

Andrew Canto (Referee Development Team): Instead of finding ways to decrease the value of point differential, or scolding teams to stop being “unsportsmanlike,” why not just show them a tastier carrot? Create a tie-breaker that rewards teams to end the game sooner. That way, players will always be playing to win, rather than running up the score.

 

AB: I think what we need instead is a shift in mindset. Instead of viewing lopsided games as unfair and an outrage, we should be viewing them as a chance to learn and grow.

 

KO: Ultimately, though, it’s up to the other team to stop themselves from being scored on. It’s far more insulting for another team to just freely hand you the ball on defense than it is for them to score on you.

 

 

Has the move from cross-country snitches to wrestling-style snitches been a detriment or boon to the game? Are undersized seekers a thing of the past?

 

KO: I think it’s been a boon. There’s something significantly less exciting about watching someone just run away from someone else than there is to watching two immensely skilled athletes wrestle with each other. It also makes for some great, exciting physicality.

 

SW: More wrestling-style snitches are a benefit to the game. More snitches are able to handle physical seekers, which not only makes for more entertaining matchups for spectators, but allows the gameplay to be much more even.

 

AB: I’m not so sure there has been a dramatic shift from cross-country snitches to grappling snitches. There are more grappling-type snitches than before, but they are still very much the minority amongst snitches. At Western Cup, I was the only wrestling-style snitch in the entire tournament.

 

DH: There will always be an opportunity for cross-country. I don’t care what style the snitches are as long as they can last as long as possible.

 

SK: There are also more and more girls moving into the position, and I don’t care how many “equality” excuses you throw at me, girl snitches are almost always going to be on the speed side.

 

CT: I was just at a tournament where the tail on the snitch was not long at all. It made the game last longer and allowed teams to play their game.

 

KO: That being said, you can still catch wrestling-style snitches by being small and quick, but it requires more intelligence and timing than maybe it did previously. I do think that core strength and the ability to handle some physicality is becoming more and more important, and if you can’t deal with it, seeking is going to be very hard for you.

 

LC: Many teams are starting to adapt a strategy of having separate off-pitch and on-pitch seekers. For off-pitch seeking, smaller, faster seekers with endurance are key, as they can get to the snitch first in open space, and against teams who do not switch their seeker, these off-pitch seekers can run the opposing seeker ragged to tire him out.

 

AB: Undersized seekers will still exist, but they will no longer be the sole seeker on the team, as teams will have to either bring multiple styles of seekers, or find that rare seeker who encompasses all styles of seeking.

 

 

Do you think some positions are more vital than others? What specific players in the league are the most vital to the success of their team?

 

SW: Beaters are becoming one of the more vital positions. While I think that chaser strength can make or break a team, as more teams rise to the elite levels of the sport, it is becoming also about which teams can maintain bludger control and use their beaters to stop any offense to determine who will come out on top.

 

DH: We live in a beater world now. After spending so much time watching USC and UCLA, it was at times frustrating to watch teams in the Northeast Regional Championship because they underused their beaters so much by comparison. Nobody changes a game like a brilliant beater. See: Steven Tindula, UCLA. I doubt USC would’ve been able to score 70 quaffle points on them at Hollywood Bowl had he been playing.

 

CT: Having good female chasers that you can trust with the ball gives you so many options on offense and makes the defense adjust to include all players on offense. A seeker as well makes all the difference. The ability to hold off another seeker or just snatch when you need one is vital to successes.

 

KO: This question lends itself to being answered with seekers more than any other, because, as Champions Series showed us, an elite seeker can cover up flaws in a lot of other areas simply by ending the game quickly. Villanova played a phenomenal tournament, but had one of the smallest squads, and still was able to beat multiple top teams.

 

I also think this question lends itself to players not on elite teams, because one of the hallmarks of elite teams is depth, being able to substitute in a new player and them not missing a beat whatsoever. To that end, I have to pick Cal’s Donovan McNiff. Last year, Cal was a very good goal scoring team that also happened to feature arguably the best seeker in the world, which made them a legitimate force out west. Donovan’s presence meant all they had to do was stay close, and they’d be heavy favorites to win the game.

 

LC: Lawrence Lazewski of Michigan State. Without Lazewski, MSU’s offensive ability turns to almost nothing. Add to that his ability to play keeper surprisingly well and Lazewski is a huge threat to opponents. At Midwest Regionals, Lazewski carried his team to the semi-finals. He was the only player to score against OSU, and though I didn’t see their game against Michigan, I’ve talked to MSU players, and Lawrence’s play at keeper that game was extraordinary. He intercepted passes, got to loose balls nobody else could, and made some pretty great blocks.

 

AB: I don’t think that any one position is more vital overall. Each team’s strategy and roster composition creates a vital position specific to that team.

 

 

What would be your first piece of advice for a new team striving to become more competitive?

 

SW: It’s all about dedication. Players need to be expected to come to practice and work hard. Without a consistent practice schedule including drills and conditioning, the team won’t be prepared. It’s also important to meet the players where they are: becoming more competitive is a gradual process, and expecting team members to change their style and expectations overnight will not end well.

 

CT: Recruit athletes and eliminate the idea that everyone must love Harry Potter. Half my team for God’s sake has never read the books. It’s all about making a more professional setting for the team and taking things more seriously in a sports-oriented way.

 

AB: Quidditch is a highly competitive sport with many talented athletes, so recruiting athletic players and/or making existing members more athletic is a big key to being competitive. Athleticism can often mask inexperience as well. Do more conditioning, focus on making players faster and stronger. The mental aspect of the sport can be developed independently, but there is almost no way to compensate for an overall dearth of physical abilities.

 

KO: Learn how to use your beaters intelligently. Your team takes the step from a terrible team to a bad or mediocre team when your beaters learn how to prioritize targets, focus on the person with the quaffle, and, in general, just realize they shouldn’t just throw at an opposing player because they happen to be there.

 

LC: Don’t be afraid to put your best player at beater. I see new teams way too often think that all their best players have to be chasers in order to score. Problem is, if you can’t get bludger control, you won’t be scoring much regardless of how good your chasers are.

 

SK: Never forget how much fun it is to win. If you haven’t won yet, just imagine it as something better than you have ever experienced. I get a lot of flak for shooting down people who say they “just play for fun.” Honestly, I just play for fun too – if I’m not winning, I’m not having fun. This isn’t to say you should just go destroy yourself and your team after a loss. You should look at what went wrong and figure out how to fix it to do better next time.

 
What has changed most about the style of play in the past few years? Has it changed for the better?

 

DH: I don’t know. I used to be a difference-making starter on a contending team, but now I can only score by being a tricky little bastard.

 

AB: The overall level of play is much higher. It seems like even brand new teams have at least a few mega-athletes now, who can get by on sheer ability. The game has become harder, stronger, faster. That’s a good thing, as long as we don’t lose sight of the sport’s quirky roots. If the increased level of play decreases the overall respect and closeness of the quidditch community, that won’t be a good thing.

 

SW: The play style has gotten much more physical. In the past, teams would often have only one or two players who could make tackles, where now many teams ensure that all of their players can get physical when needed. But it does have some problems. Many players come to quidditch without previous sports experience, and thus are unprepared to know how to handle this physical contact. If a player doesn’t know how to take a hit or safely go down in a tackle, this is when injuries occur.

 

KO: The quality of passes and reliability of catches in response to teams that are better and better at physically stopping the quaffle carrier has greatly improved. I think for entertainment value, it’s made the game significantly better, although it’s greatly increased the distance between the haves and have-nots of quidditch.

 

LC: Everyone is going to say the physicality has increased, but it’s really just changed styles, from illegal to legal, with the advent of certified refs. The most noticeable difference for me has been in the beater game. Last year at this time, the standard beater strategy was to get bludger control and then put your beaters back on defense. While this strategy does still have a place in the game today, you’d be hard pressed to find a top team that doesn’t send a beater on offense, at least occasionally.

 

AC: The evolution of beaters over the past few years has absolutely changed the most. Teams understand that well-trained beaters can even the playing field against any team.

 

SK: I’d like to point out a change that isn’t necessarily old style versus new style anymore but instead one of the biggest flags of a new team: the role of a keeper. Sticking the keeper in front of the hoops and telling them to play goalie and barely even think about running down the field is like highlighting a chaser on every new team in green.

 

 

If the World Cup was today, who would win? Why?

 

SW: Texas A&M has consistently shown themselves to be a true powerhouse team. Their team wasn’t as affected by graduations as some other top teams from World Cup V, and they run fast, hit well, and play hard. They have a solid team, they have the experience at that high level of competition after their semi-finals showing last year, and they have the drive and dedication to make it all the way.

 

CT: I would put my money on A&M. They are solid in all aspects and have a very experienced crew. I love ‘em to death too – they deserve it.

 

SK: LSULSULSU! Look y’all, I’m just confident in my team. I see a lot of great teams out there, sure, but I don’t see any we can’t beat, especially if the world cup is on the line.

 

KO: If it weren’t for Jacob Adlis’s injury, I would probably say Texas. Their dismantling of an – admittedly missing their two best beaters – very, very good UCLA team in the finals of the West by Southwest tournament was maybe the most impressive game I’ve ever seen. But in the same tournament, they also lost to UCLA by 50 and had two games with the Western Merc team that were both close to snitch range.

 

AB: I believe that USC would win it. They have size, speed, physicality, awareness, and experience at every single position, as well as incredible depth now. They have so many strengths, and no easily exploitable weakness. They have some of the most sound strategy of any team in the sport, and no team is better coached. As long as they stay focused, there are very few teams who play anywhere near their level.

 

KO: USC should also be in the conversation, but, I think, at this very moment, I’d have to go with Texas A&M, just because I believe in their seeker play a little more than I do USC’s, which is vitally important in a large tournament.

 

LC: UMiami has crazy physical chasers who let almost nobody through them on defense and who are stopped by almost nobody on offense, outstanding beaters – including Matt Ziff –  and probably the most athletic female beaters in the country – Jennifer Baumgartner played keeper for USA Jr. soccer. Oh, and this kid named David Moyer.

 

After having snitched against Moyer, Billy Greco, and Tyler Macy, I’m confident in saying that Moyer is the best seeker in the game today. If he hadn’t sprained both his wrists at the Hollywood Bowl, I’m almost certain that Miami would have taken that tournament with an 11-man roster.

 

 

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