Photo credit: Tasha Kiri Photography.
Editor’s note: Mitch is a player for the Rain City Raptors and co-commissioner of the Quidditch Conference of the Northwest (QCON).
By Mitchell Hatfield
On January 12th, USQ Northwest players were informed that Utah State Quidditch Club (Utah) would be traveling to the Northwest Regional Championship rather than attending their own region’s championship. Just over one week later, Provo Quidditch was also confirmed to be attending the one-day NWRC, which takes place March 4th, 2017 in Kennewick, Washington.
While NWRC 2016-17 hasn’t happened yet, teams choosing to travel to neighboring regional championship is not an unheard-of event. Tangentially, the Warriors chose to register for the first time this season as a Mid-Atlantic team rather than a Northeast team, breaking with the region they’d been registered in since their split from NYDC in 2014-15.
It seems like the decision to play at an out-of-region regional championship is usually made on the grounds of financial feasibility of travel or hotel expenses.
In the case of Provo Quidditch, the reasons for attending NWRC are due to personal reasons that will be discussed later.
Unfortunately, the late hour at which Utah State and Provo were added to their neighboring regional championship led to disgruntled players within those regions and—as we are all well aware of in this community—disgruntled players tend to rumor-monger and cast aspersions as to just how benevolent the execution of these transfers was.
After speaking with a number of players from the Northwest, I came to the conclusion that many players—and indeed the region itself—are approaching a tipping point. Most of the players I talked to feel that there is increasingly less incentive to be members of USQ when the league isn’t generally benefitting their region.
In the last two seasons, only three total rosters—Thunderbird Sport Club (TSC, formerly University of British Columbia), Boise State Abraxans (BSA), and a Western Washington University (WWU) Roster (2015) that would become the Rain City Raptors (RCR) for the 2016 season—have attended USQ Cup. Bear this in mind that the World Cup 8/USQ national tournament WWU roster by and large became the USQ Cup 9 RCR roster.
Of the three Northwest teams that have been to a USQ national tournament, only two—UBC and WWU/RCR—have actively spread the knowledge and skills they gained from those trips within the region.
In general, Boise does not travel within the Northwest outside of for NWRC. In the last three seasons, the Abraxans have attended two NW tournaments that were neither NWRCs nor hosted by Boise itself—specifically WWU’s Clash in the Cascades and the Moscow Manticores’ (MMUI) Komrade Kup I—and both were in the region’s inaugural 2014-2015 season.
Since Komrade Kup I, the Abraxans haven’t attended a single non-NWRC NW event outside of Boise. In fact, it was widely alleged during the 2015-16 season that the Abraxans were purposefully refraining from intraregional travel on the grounds of improving its squad. While I can’t fault them for that logic or argue with the results, I can be frustrated with a team for refusing to help its own growing region by choosing not to play within it.
Boise is largely isolated from the rest of the Northwest, and it has made at least one attempt to travel within the region during the 2016-17 season. Unfortunately winter weather kept the team from traveling to Bellingham, Washington for Subdued Excitement 2: The Streets on January 28th.
However, its general lack of travel in-region doesn’t help as much as RCR’s traveling does, nor does it help as much as TSC’s travel has both in the past and in the current season—even if these teams tend not to stack up as well against the Abraxans. As undoubtedly the best team in a growing region, it would absolutely be beneficial to see Boise at more Northwest tournaments.
It would only serve to strengthen the region as a whole if other Northwest teams had the opportunity to play against and watch the Boise team. It is detrimental that the region misses out on learning from its strongest team.
The Northwest is the second-youngest USQ region, and it is still working to train and grow programs. Its programs’ levels are such that attending nationals shouldn’t be about making a big show. It shouldn’t be about making waves or pulling upsets—barring the Abraxans’ run into the bracket last season. It can’t be about that: the region’s programs simply aren’t capable of such displays yet. They aren’t on a comparable playing field. Until the Northwest can build strong programs led by experienced players who have been trained by other experienced players, attending nationals should be about sending teams to learn from established programs across the country and bringing what they learn back to the rest of the region.
And that’s where Utah figures back in. Because in the event that one of the Utah teams attending this season’s NWRC ends up claiming a bid to nationals in lieu of a Northwest team—that valuable experience is in effect stolen from a region that desperately needs it.
“What’s the point of paying to play in USQ if we aren’t even benefiting from…the league?” said one Northwest player who wished to remain anonymous. “[Or if] our small number of bids could be used by people not even from the region? At that point, we may as well just chose to play [exclusively] through QCON. It’s cheaper, and we all benefit from playing at the conference finals.”
While neither I nor my co-commissioner Serena Cheong ever set out to have QCON become an alternative to USQ or Quidditch Canada, it hasn’t stopped some players from seeing it that way. While I will continue to encourage teams to remain USQ members because I believe it is a mostly beneficial organization and one that the Northwest can still benefit from, this sentiments is not universally shared.
I cannot force teams to remain members of the national league if they don’t want to do so. In recent months, it has seemed that anti-USQ sentiment has been brewing all across the western divide of the USQ-drawn regions, and amid growing levels of discontent, USQ organizers need to begin to reexamine policies and make real steps toward changing policies that have become unpopular with many members.
Focusing back on the topic at hand for the moment. One thing that Northwest players are concerned about is the perception that the Utah teams are essentially bringing nothing while likely taking at least one of the two Northwest bids. Many Northwest players think it would be a fair move on USQ’s part to offer an additional bid at NWRC since it chose to include these two out-of-region teams.
I spoke with Northwest Regional Coordinator Kym Couch about Utah State and Provo’s NWRC attendance.
“Martin Pyne is the resident number guru,” Couch replied when asked what might have changed if Provo and Utah State had applied to be Northwest teams prior to the bid allocation deadline. “But I do keep a bid prediction document…and, according to my calculations, the Northwest would have gotten 3 bids—2 population and 1 auto—and there would have been no change for the West. The Northwest’s additional bid would have come from either the Midwest or the South.”
Couch went one step further in her calculations and added that—had the entire state of Utah been transferred from the West to the Northwest—then the increase to 3 bids “would have been the same, but [the additional bid] would have come from the West instead of South or Midwest.”
So if these teams had signed on to attend NWRC and officially join the Northwest prior to bid allocation, their attendance would have brought another bid into the Northwest with them. When asked to voice an opinion on the Utah teams joining NWRC, Couch was diplomatic.
“I think it is important that the best teams available attend nationals,” said Couch. “If the Utah teams are the best teams at [NWRC], then I will support them and cheer them on and be happy to see them there.”
Although Couch did speak with Utah State before it submitted its application, she did not work with Provo before it requested to attend an out-of-region regional championship.
“I know that [Provo has] had difficulty with two-day tournaments in the past, so the availability of a one-day tournament makes this the first [regional championship it] could attend in its entirety,” she said.
When pressed on the subject, Couch directed me to speak with Alexis Kaegi of Provo quidditch. When I asked Kaegi about Provo attending NWRC, she was really excited to be able to attend a one-day regional championship and earn a chance at a nationals bid. I followed up by asking how Provo would proceed in the event of earning a bid at NWRC.
“Nationals is certainly our goal, and we would only play Saturday,” said Kaegi. “It’s something we’ve committed to, even though it would mean only participating in half a tournament in the end. If we get that bid, we’re going to make it as far as possible without playing on Sunday.”
Couch did see a lot of benefit to the Utah teams coming to NWRC.
“The Northwest has had difficulty with competition, with the loss of the Western Canadian teams, the low-population density of the area, and the isolation caused by that low-population,” she said. “Getting more teams at an equal or higher competitive level can only serve to improve our region. The only true negative effect of Utah teams coming to the Northwest regional this season are the teams who [will be] unable to attend nationals. But the Utah teams who are coming will be bringing a high competitive spirit, volunteers, snitches and referees we can trust, and a different energy than we have seen at our previous two regional events.”
Couch stressed empathy, asking that Northwest teams try to put themselves in Utah State and Provo’s shoes. “Consider what you would have done if you were in [their] position,” she said. “[They’re just] trying to do what is best for [their] team. As far as people suggesting teams are trying to pick up an easy bid, I think you’ll find that the integrity and competitive attitude of these teams is not conducive with taking an easy route. I think that the teams attending this regionals event will show that the Northwest is not an easy route.”
While Couch deferred my inquiry on policy change regarding bid allocation, citing that it wasn’t her department, she said that this season’s NWRC will likely result in internal discussion over potential policy changes.
I—and I’m certain many others—encourage this discussion.
One Northwest player has suggested that USQ institute a time limit after the announcement of regional locations within which teams wishing to attend another region’s championship must submit a request. This idea bears merit. Another suggestion which dovetails nicely here is that it might be logical for USQ to consider announcing regional event locations prior to bid allocation calculations. This would allow teams to consider attending an event outside their geographic region to count for the purposes of bid allocation toward their own event’s region.
While I don’t expect my writing these suggestions down to cause any real change, I can expect that emails from many of you could tip the scales in favor of change. Couch seems to share this opinion—in fact, she made certain to emphasize the fact that players with ideas about how to change policy should email firstname.lastname@example.org with their ideas, given that discussions about policy decisions for the coming season begin toward the end of the current one.
I too suggest that if you have experienced problems with USQ’s organization of the sport or have an idea for how things could be improved, you should write an email to your regional coordinator:
Northwest: Kym Couch — email@example.com
West: Jessica Ward — firstname.lastname@example.org
Midwest: Matt Dwyer — email@example.com
Southwest: Joshua Mansfield — firstname.lastname@example.org
Northeast: Lisle Coleman — email@example.com
Mid-Atlantic: Erin Mallory — firstname.lastname@example.org
Great Lakes: Matthew Dwyer — email@example.com
South: Curtis Taylor — firstname.lastname@example.org
You could also use the general contact form here. Or, if you want to elevate a concern that you feel is pressing, reach out to upper management—the people paid to make USQ work for us:
Events Manager: Jillian Flom — email@example.com
Events Director: Mary Kimball — firstname.lastname@example.org
Membership Director: Eric Schnier — email@example.com
Executive Director: Sarah Woolsey — firstname.lastname@example.org
None of these people seem quite right? You can access the entire list of USQ leadership here, and the formula for a USQ email account is just FIRSTNAME.LASTNAME@usquidditch.org, so you should be able to get a hold of any member of leadership or volunteer staff if necessary.
Email your regional coordinator. Email gameplay. Email anyone who will listen. Only if we put regular pressure on our leaders can we effect change.
(Editor’s note: Kym Couch has since pointed out that USQ announces event locations one month before the deadline for team registration, which gives teams time to speculate on transferring. Also, apparently at least one transfer occurred during this period during the 2016-17 season.
Similarly, Great Lakes Regional Coordinator Matthew Dwyer was left off the contact list upon initial publication. It has since been updated.
We were told off for calling Utah State Utah. This has been fixed. Note: similar updates will not happen when Ryan calles San Francisco San Fran, SF, Frisco, or That Place That Gets Super Grumpy When You Use A Nickname.)