The Eighth Man

Veteran Beater Shannon Moorhead Retires

By Daniel Shapiro

“Are you alright?”

“I’m fine. Why did we stop play?”

That was University of Miami’s Shannon Moorhead talking to me after I got lit up by Miami keeper Tyler Odems, who also plays fullback for the Miami football team. I was apparently very woozy, something I don’t remember, so it’s probably true. I do remember that the first person by my side was Shannon, concerned for my health.

University of Missouri and Miami had been matched up during World Cup 8 due to the Swiss-style format. It was a game I wanted to avoid happening–I wear my Moorhead Team USA jersey as often as I wear my own Mizzou jersey. I even jokingly went to the captains meeting wearing it, saying I was the Miami captain named Moorhead and wanted to forfeit.

Mizzou was up 40, Miami scored a goal and immediately someone from their bench yelled for their seeker to grab the snitch. He did. They hadn’t waited for the goal whistle that never came—the score had been ruled no good because the chaser that scored had been beat prior.

When the confusion settled, I didn’t celebrate on the sideline. I ran over to Shannon. She was angry and frustrated. Due to the Swiss system, losing this game put Miami in a do-or-die situation for the next day.

We hugged. I told her they were still in it. She calmed down. Then we went to our respective teams for the post-game handshake. We hugged again.

World Cup 8 was the first time we actually got to meet in person. It was the first time we played one another. It will also be the last.

Shannon Moorhead—captain of the University of Miami, former Team USA beater, two-time South Regional Champion, fiery competitor and one of my best friends—has officially retired from quidditch.

Credit: Paulina M. Pascual

Credit: Paulina M. Pascual

Shannon and I have only actually been able to interact in person twice—at World Cup 8 and at Midwest Fantasy 2015, where I was mostly drugged up on pain meds due to knee surgery three days prior. It’s funny because we grew up less than two hours away from one another in Chicagoland and had a mutual friend long before either of us joined quidditch. So of course, we become close friends once we move to Miami and Columbia, Missouri.

It’s part of what makes quidditch great—the friendships. Ours developed after the 2014 Global Games Team USA roster was announced. I was put in charge of telling each of the players that they had made it. When we added one another on Facebook and discovered our mutual friend, our friendship started and has just been rolling since.

Credit: KS Goh

Credit: KS Goh

Despite having broken her collarbone during Swamp Cup in January, 2014 and missing her regional, we still named Shannon to Team USA. She performed at World Cup VII like one of the best in the game, so we had no qualms about our decision.

Shannon’s odds for making the 2016 iteration of the roster were overwhelmingly favorable. She’s one of the biggest stars of the south—if not the biggest. And she’s a former member that hasn’t lost any of her skill.

So why walk away from not only World Cup 2016, but the remainder of her season with Miami? Injury concerns.

When Miami chaser Sean Beloff needed his jaw wired shut for six weeks after this year’s Swamp Cup, it was a wakeup call for Shannon.

“If I get hurt, I can’t do my internship,” she told me. “I can’t do my other research. When Sean got the broken jaw, it derailed his life for six weeks. I can’t have that happen.”

Credit: Sami Kanterperson

Credit: Sami Kanterperson

I told her I supported her decision—it’s one I’ve been wrestling with as I approach my final year of graduate school. Injuries make life difficult, so as supportive as she has been through my rehab, I’m as supportive of her decision to walk away.

“Hardest decision I’ve ever had to make,” she said.

I wanted to talk her out of it—to tell her to ride off into the sunset with another gold medal around her neck. But as with other sports, athletes are getting bigger, stronger and faster.

USQ has spent the past few years placing a much larger emphasis on player health and safety—rules have been developed to prevent injury, like how a player can’t continue to charge after being beat and then claim natural motion. Mouth guards were instituted and we all adapted, for the better. Each team must have a coach attend a concussion seminar. The league now offers accident insurance as part of its $50 membership fee, one I’m glad to have and willing to pay less than the cost of “Fallout 4” for.

Yet, sometimes, we have to walk away.

Until quidditch grows into a full-fledged professional sport where players are paid, injuries will always loom in the back of players’ heads as they leave college and prepare themselves for their professional careers. Even NFL players, such as Calvin Johnson earlier this week, walk away.

Shannon is hanging up her cleats as she enters the next stage of her life. We’ll still talk and probably interact in person—we both visit Chicago for the holidays. But quidditch is losing one of its brightest stars.
She added one more thing when she told me she was leaving.

“I already miss it so much.”

Daniel Shapiro is currently a graduate student at the Missouri School of Journalism, pursuing a master’s degree in documentary journalism. He graduated in 2015 with a bachelor’s of journalism degree from the same institution. He can be contacted via Twitter @DanielShapiro19 or email at

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