Antwerp QC, Much of Belgian Core, Leaves Competitive Quidditch

Editor’s Note: Answers were submitted prior to the Northeast Regional Championship and New York University rebranding as the community team New York Quidditch Club. The name change, however, is reflected below.

It has been a while since our last shootaround, so we decided it was about time we solicit some questions from the community and provide you with our opinions on the matters.

Kyle Jeon transferred from New York Quidditch Club to Quidditch Club Boston. Is this poaching? If not, how is this different than the Lone Star Quidditch Club transfers that were widely decried as poaching? What should USQ be doing to address issues like this, if anything?

Kevin Oelze: It’s surprisingly tricky. Ultimately, I’d have to say no—this isn’t poaching. I don’t think this is even sketchy. From the details we have, it seems QCB wasn’t actively going after Jeon, and it was he who approached them. I believe that’s the key in a lot of poaching discussions—who made the first move. I think it’s extremely rude for a team to try to recruit another team’s players. However, when a player from another team approaches you, it’s quite a different story. It’s impossible for an outsider to know what actually happened. I say that from experience, having captained a team that only ever had outside players approach it, yet it still looked like poaching.

The difference in public outcry between Jeon and the Lone Star transfers is mostly a perception that Lone Star did actively poach. In reality, the major difference here is that the transfer policy was heavily revised (for very good, necessary reasons which would take an entire article to explain) for this season. Previously, you were required to have a valid reason for transferring, whereas this year, everyone is granted a carte blanche transfer before November 1. Honestly, any scrutiny the Lone Star transfers should have received was for whether the players had valid reasons to transfer and for the large numbers of currently-enrolled Texas A&M University students they had last year. Similarly, QCB should be under scrutiny for the active Emerson College players it has taken, but this transfer is a drop in the bucket.

As for what USQ can do to address issues like this, it’s extremely difficult, and I wish I had a great solution. I don’t think a college/community split is going to be the great panacea that many people think it will be, though I can understand why people are clamoring for it. For the life of me, I don’t understand how an above-average/mid-range college team can reasonably expect to protect an elite player on their team from being poached by elite community teams as the situation is right now.

Credit: Loring Masters

Credit: Loring Masters

Eric Wasser: If Jeon were a student, this would be poaching. However, considering he was playing on a university team that, at the time, acted similar to a community team—taking on non-alumni such as Leeanne Dillmann—and he approached QCB, it’s the same as anyone choosing to play for Texas Cavalry over Lone Star. Personally, I don’t care who plays for which team, ever. Worry about yourself.

David Hoops: I would say that this transfer wouldn’t fall under the idea of “poaching” since Jeon isn’t an undergraduate student and has already had a long career with NYQC. I applaud him for deciding to let some new faces step in to lead the team, and I have no issues with someone deciding to play for an already strong team. I can’t think of many people who would want to play for anything less than the best team possible. As far as USQ addressing this specific issue, I think the expected college/community division split will handle this. Up until that point, live and let live.

Tad Walters: Something I think is really important when talking about “poaching” is whether or not said player or players were actively recruited. It’s one thing when a community team actively tries to steal a player from a college team. It’s another completely different thing if a player chooses to leave their college team for any number of reasons, and then ends up playing with a community team. I honestly don’t think very many players who have switched to community teams in the past few years have been actively “poached,” but that’s between the players and their teams.

Devin Sandon: I don’t think that Jeon’s transfer was an instance of poaching. To me, poaching is a case of a team approaching a skilled player from a less-competitive team and soliciting them to join. Poaching, by its nature, is a redistribution of talent which gives one team a bigger slice of a smaller pie. In Jeon’s case, he decided to leave NYQC because he felt that his presence was not conducive to the further development of the team. By his departure, Jeon is hoping to make NYQC better, not worse.

Austin Pitts: Poaching or not, what does it matter if Jeon wants to play for QCB? I personally think that anyone going to a school with a quidditch program should play quidditch for the school, but what I think doesn’t matter in terms of others’ decisions. I can talk about how you should be loyal to your school, but at the end of the day, it is the player’s decision. I don’t think USQ should do anything.

Even for the quidditch community, this has been an incredibly negative year in the attitudes of quidditch players in general. What gives with this? Is this a problem? Is there something that can be done to address this?

Sandon: I think, to some extent, there is institutional fatigue. More and more, USQ insiders are being removed from their roles and are no longer bound to act as public faces for the organization. This lets them be more free to express frustrations. USQ has continued to struggle to address the actual needs and wants of the players. As the level of competition has increased in games, we’ve burned out many of our senior referees. The difficulty of training and certifying new referees, as well as the present environment, which is inhospitable to newcomers, has further aggravated the problem.

In a sense, this problem mirrors a broader problem in quidditch. While the community has grown dramatically in size, the opportunities to be actively involved in improving the state of the game have declined. As a result, USQ is grows more disconnected from the player base, making it harder for USQ to respond to player input and the general opinions of the players, as well as harder for players to understand what USQ is doing and why.

Bringing back programs such as the state representatives and partnering with the IRDP would at least help in dealing with these concerns. Ultimately though, the fundamental nature of the community has also changed to a fair degree.

Hoops: I’m actually not too convinced this has been a super negative year throughout the community. We’re just a larger community in a world that posts everything online. As much as I dislike anonymous gossip columns, it doesn’t look like they’re going to go away. Maybe I’m personally a little too jaded for what pops up in the quidditch community, but I honestly haven’t noticed increased negativity—just more avenues for that negativity to get noticed

Pitts: I feel like I shouldn’t answer this question because I’ll most likely offend someone. The community is too quickly offended, needs to develop tougher skin and learn to focus on the game itself. The problem is that, while people complain about reffing, quidditch journalism and aspects of gameplay, no one steps up to the plate in terms of volunteering their own time.

Wasser: Tensions are building as the skill gap grows. It’s a combination of University of Texas three-peating, community teams becoming a separate tier of talent and largely avoiding the learning curve of teaching new players and The Eighth Man largely ignoring the international scene. The inevitable community and college championship split will be good for the quidditch community, but I think the negativity needs to be sorted out on a team-by-team basis. I will always be an advocate of the “prove them wrong on the pitch” mentality, but so many quidditch people just demand recognition for every little accomplishment. Sorry, Western Washington Wyverns, win and I’ll write about you.

Credit: Joshua Mansfield

Credit: Joshua Mansfield

If each region were a Tad Walters quote, what would each be?

Great Lakes: “Nah, but low key I realized I cheat at quidditch on accident a lot.” (Pitts)
Mid-Atlantic: “#SpiderButIHardlyKnowHer” (Pitts)
Midwest: “I invented Kansasing!” (Wasser)
Northeast: “You may not be the JJ Watt of quidditch, but it’s cool, cuz ur my mom.” (Oelze)
Northwest: “If you ever feel like giving up, like you have no chance at all, just remember that Jackass won an Oscar.” (Sandon)
South: “I got the snitch standing over Stephen Nettles and he literally yelled, ‘Nooooooooo,’ like a defeated super-villain.” (Wasser)
Southwest: “oh wow who’s that handsome fella in the cowboy hat” (Sandon)
West: “I want to be famous so bad.” (Sandon)

Everyone always talks about the “leadership” certain players bring to a team. In a sport like quidditch, which is a game of haves and have-nots, is leadership really relevant or is it all about the athletes and putting them in the best positions to succeed?

Wasser: Team culture is the most important thing to success. The perfect example of this is Rochester United. By taking a short roster of experience with very few females, Shane Hurlbert has established a practice regimen and player development policy that has brought three new players up to a level where they flow almost seamlessly in their respective rotations. That sort of developmental success doesn’t happen with someone who just gets athletes to play, especially considering the high learning curve of quidditch strategy.

Walters: Leadership is extremely important, especially in this season when there is more parity between top teams around the country than there has been in previous seasons. Being successful in sports is partially about the mentality players have on and off the field. On the field, a player has to know they can succeed. They need to have a game plan they can believe in and know that that is the best for them. Off the field, a player needs to have a vision for the future, whether that’s beating a rival, winning a tournament, qualifying for USQ Cup 9 or even winning USQ Cup 9. While I think it’s possible for players to do this on their own, I think having a leader who can instill these things into players is the key to being a successful team.

Hoops: I think leadership is definitely relevant, but it’s far from a be-all, end-all. In the argument of Team Average Athletes with a Great Coach versus Team Great Athletes with an Average Coach, I’ll take the better athletes most of the time. But to be able to reach the team’s full potential, there needs to be leadership that can put the strategies in place that best suit the athletes they have.

It’s not talked about as much, but teams also need great logistical leaders to keep teams active and free from unnecessary distraction. Having regular practice and workout times, handling transportation and housing for tournaments and coming up with a competitive, but not overworking tournament schedule are all important pieces of the puzzle to getting to the top of the rankings.

Sandon: Leadership definitely matters. Given the massive volatility of rosters, the ability to bring in athletic new players and not only teach them the mechanical abilities they need to succeed, but also getting them to buy into the sport, the team and the system is extraordinarily important. Beyond that, a team’s leadership and the culture they create determines how teams respond to inevitable difficulties, whether it’s a bad call, an unexpected development in a game or a loss. Leaders help their teams keep their heads, adjust in game and do the work necessary to improve and avoid repeating mistakes. Having talented players is great, but you need strong leadership to leverage those players’ skills appropriately and consistently.

Pitts: Leadership is so much more than the gameplay aspect, but I’ll strictly focus on that for now. Like every sport, having the best athletes is obviously beneficial, yet the more athletic team doesn’t always pull through. While quidditch involves letting your players go out and be athletic more than other sports, there’s no denying that a cohesive strategy is huge in terms of getting to the next level. Ball State University continues to stay nationally relevant using the methodical, slow-paced passing attack it is known for, while Blue Mountain Quidditch Club made its run last year because of John Gaffigan’s offensive system. Both teams have their share of athletes, but winning games, tournaments and championships is so much more than putting athletes in the right spot.

What is the best thing USQ could do to grow quidditch in the US?

Walters: Put more effort into high school programs.

Sandon: I think the best thing USQ could do to further develop quidditch in the United States would be to make a concerted effort to develop youth quidditch, at least in the long run. In the short run, any large effort might prove problematic, as the underserved player base would feel ignored again. Another option for improving the state of quidditch would be to bring back basic team membership, or find ways to make membership have a larger return on investment for teams not qualifying for World Cup.

Pitts: I’d love for USQ to focus on nationwide high school quidditch, but they have to solve their own problems before thinking of branching out. They need to do something in terms of the referee situation, particularly with the training of referees. State representatives would be a good position to bring back, along with allowing Regional Coordinators more say in everything from general gameplay to policy decisions.

Wasser: Division 2 needs to come back at USQ Cup 9.

Hoops: First and foremost, the division between college and community teams needs to take place as soon as possible, at least at the national championship level. College teams have different needs and opportunities than community teams and the potential product they can place on the field is starting to reach insurmountable gaps in favor of our community squads.

Next, USQ really needs to start pushing quidditch at younger age groups. Over the past few decades almost every national sports league in the US has been creating programs focused at attracting kids to their sport. It’s basic sports marketing—the younger they get involved, the more likely they’ll keep playing and stay committed in the future. USQ should find ways to expose high schools to the game, if not younger. As those kids go to college and beyond, they’ll be much more likely to start new teams in underdeveloped areas than someone who didn’t play at a young age.

Credit: KS Goh

Credit: KS Goh

Should USQ develop more of a Team USA program?

Hoops: Would it be nice to have? I’m sure it would. But we’re a young organization trying to cover a massive geographic area, with hotbeds spread out from New York to Miami to Los Angeles and almost everywhere in between. A Team USA program would need to meet semi-regularly during quiet moments of the season to be effective, and the cost of transportation and housing won’t be small for individual players. We’re lucky to have devoted elite players who would definitely try to make it work, but if they can’t, I can’t help but think that the money needed to get them there would be better sent to other USQ initiatives.

Also, I don’t see any reason to start a program for a team that’s winning world championships while selecting players somewhat by geography instead of raw skill and talent alone.

Pitts: As in, should USQ work towards creating a Team USA through tryouts that practice together under a coach? That’d be wonderful! Everyone who wants to tryout for Team USA will be required to fly to South Carolina for tryouts, and then, if selected, take a month out of the year to live in South Carolina to practice with the team before going to Global Games to play. All the while covering their own plane tickets to and from tryouts and practice, along with Global Games.

I think a Team USA program would be beneficial, and something the league should push for, but it shouldn’t be a top priority.

Sandon: I honestly think it would be rather irresponsible for USQ to devote any substantial resources to a Team USA program. Until the tournament becomes actually competitive and is more than a glorified international fantasy tournament, USQ has too many real issues to address to be able to afford to allocate any time or resources to a team that needs neither.

Credit: Nicole Harrig

Credit: Nicole Harrig

What was the most surprising result: Cavalry over Lone Star, University of Maryland over Rochester United or something else? What are the long-term implications of any of these?

Pitts: Lone Star is the consensus number 1 team. Yes, they had a depleted roster, but they are the consensus number 1 team and lost. That has to be the most surprising result. While surprising, these games don’t have any long-term implications besides USQ standings. They both occurred in October, 6 months away from World Cup. There is plenty of time for all of these teams to undergo change, and to be at their best come April.

Walters: University of Texas 110*- University of Texas at San Antonio 70
For a team that hasn’t received a single vote in The Eighth Man rankings this season, I think this a ridiculously impressive result for UTSA. UTSA matches up poorly with certain top-tier teams, especially in the beater game, and they can be a bit inconsistent, but I think the result of this game shows that they are a team that could make a very deep run at Nationals and upset a few Top 20 teams.

Wasser: Cavalry over Lone Star is a game changer in looking towards US Quidditch Cup 9. This year definitely has the potential to have someone from outside the Southwest claim the championship.

Sandon: I think that the results of Wolf Pack Classic in general are more surprising than that of Cavalry over Lone Star or the like. While Cavalry puts on an impressive performance, it was against Lone Star’s substantially depleted roster. The more interesting result of the tournament was that there seems to be a much greater degree of parity than one might have expected. UTSA, UT, Baylor University, Cavalry, Gulf Coast Gumbeaux and Lone Star all had interconnected snitch range games. Obviously a number of the teams weren’t at full strength, and repeat games didn’t necessarily have similar outcomes, such as Cavalry versus Baylor, but it suggests that there is less a big four, and more of a top tier of teams who may trade games with each other throughout the season.

Hoops: I was pretty surprised to see Maryland get back on the wagon. The Rochester win comes with a bit of an asterisk for Rochester’s small roster, but the level of play for Maryland was noticeably higher, with the spread out passing attack from last season making occasional reappearances. I’m not sure exactly what changed internally from their poor performance at Turtle Cup, but it worked.

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