by Sarah GoadUS South quidditch has a reputation. Unfortunately, that reputation is not at all what most of us down here would like it to be. For years now, we have accumulated increased notoriety for being an isolationist region—the isolationist region, really, with fewer attended tournaments, fewer qualifying teams for national/international tournaments, and really just fewer teams than any other, especially in light of our lengthy history. Considering the size and population density of the states in this region, and considering how long the sport has been established here, we should not still be so stagnant. It’s kind of appalling, really.
What does South quidditch have to offer? According to last year’s coaches’ polls, the belly of our region was nearly unpopulated by teams (that’s half!—Alabama, Georgia, and Mississippi had just one competitive team as of April 2015), and no teams from the South made it to the top 24 at World Cup 8. All of this aside, we have the potential to be so much more.
South Regional Fantasy The South Regional Fantasy Tournament already took place on June 6 in the same city it’s been located in for the past three years—Tallahassee, Florida—to no one’s great surprise. Florida State University (FSU) has been host to this fantasy for the past several years, though Gina Mendicino organized it this year in light of Tabitha Yousko’s graduation from FSU this past spring. I don’t think anyone expects the location of the “official” South fantasy to change any time soon. Florida is the central quidditch hub in the region, and Tallahassee is a convenient location. This is a shame, because the only way to refresh the quidditch scene and bring new blood to the sport is to open new cities to tournaments, especially fun ones where anyone is welcome to participate--fun ones we, as the South quidditch community, should work harder to encourage newcomers to attend. Our neighbor regions have fantasy tournaments aplenty. Come August, Raleigh, North Carolina will be hosting the Oak City Fantasy a mere pebble’s throw away from the borders of the South region. The Mid-Atlantic has hosted at least five informal tournaments this summer. The Southwest also has multiple fantasy tournaments slated for summer 2015, including the largest one in the US, hosting players from at least three countries and all eight USQ regions. Fantasy tournaments are a great way to get people interested in quidditch and develop the sport, and we need more than just one tournament that attracts a few players to grow quidditch in the South. Leadership
In terms of South leadership, the CQC exists, as does the Florida Quidditch Conference (FQC), but beyond that quidditch in the south is extremely disparate. Communication is next to nonexistent, and I think that for such a large geographic region, something that is vital to the sport’s progression is a united organizational unit—some kind of Southern Quidditch Conference (SQC) that is interested in taking the interests of the CQC and the FQC and fusing them. Whether this is through USQ or a much more informal event, it would be great to have people throughout the region caring about it and ensuring that the whole region grows together. Our Regional Championship was planned by two people who don’t even live in the region, and while Tad Walters and Jackie Ross did a great job, it’d be great to see people in our region become more invested in its success. Hosting and attending tournaments First, teams need to start realizing the importance of hosting tournaments on their own turf. South Carolina teams have made a few, wavering attempts to flesh out their credibility within the past year: Coastal Carolina University hosted two CQC, non-USQ-official tournaments, and the College of Charleston (CofC) hosted the only USQ-official tournament last season in the entire state. That said, the other three SC teams—the University of South Carolina (USC), the University of Winthrop, and Southern Storm (SS)—didn't host any. Storm helped plan some other CQC tournaments, but it traveled to North Carolina and thus the Mid-Atlantic Region to do so. It’s interesting to look at how many teams from outside of the state actually attended a South Carolina tournament last season. Coastal’s tournaments attracted University of North Carolina-Wilmington, University of North Carolina-Greensboro, University of North Carolina (UNC), and Appalachian State University, but those are all Mid-Atlantic teams traveling outside of their region and within their comfort zone (North and South Carolina teams meet almost as frequently as Florida teams play one another). CofC’s Old Money Classic tournament attracted App State, UNC, and FSU, making it not only the only USQ-official tournament in SC last season but also the only SC tournament that had a Florida team participate. The problem runs both ways in the region. The problem is just exacerbated as South Carolina teams aren’t traveling to Florida, nor are they hosting many tournaments themselves. Florida teams play a fair number of tournaments, but those are nearly exclusively internal with the same teams facing one another time and time again. What I would like to see for the upcoming season is for South teams to continue to pursue hosting opportunities and to push for teams from out of state to attend—especially teams from outside their bubble of experience. This means teams that can introduce new styles of play and new opportunities in terms of growth; Florida teams should be attempting to butt heads with the Southwest as much as possible, and SC teams need to journey to as many Tennessee and Florida tournaments as they can afford. It’s likely true that the only way out-of-state teams will be interested in attending South tournaments is after we have shown the initiative to break free of our borders and commit to attending their tournaments first. I feel like people have been saying this for years now, but if anyone wants to see any kind of improvement from the region, teams really are going to have to grow less complacent and challenge themselves.
Photo Courtesy of Nikki Smith PhotographyAlabama, Mississippi, and Georgia Finally, we absolutely need to see what we can do about pushing for the growth of new teams in the barren half of the South. Although last year these states were nearly empty, according to Curtis Taylor, USQ’s regional correspondent for the South, things have picked up a little bit. University of Southern Alabama has a team, there’s talk of a community team in Mississippi, and it looks like one may sprout up at Georgia Tech University. There apparently also remains potential for a community team in Atlanta, Georgia, said Taylor, but he knows next to nothing. “Once we have competitive teams that can function and serve a purpose in the papers, saying [that the South is] competitive, [we’ll] entice the people needed to open up those pockets of success in Georgia, Alabama, and Mississippi,” said Taylor. I think it would bode well for both the USQ and the rest of the South Region to push for the acquisition of regional reps for the states of Alabama, Mississippi, and Georgia. These reps wouldn’t necessarily need to be very experienced with quidditch, but South Region teams would absolutely need to show camaraderie and support as soon as reps were hired and would need to reach out and show that they were willing to assist them as they grew their programs and create local communities for the sport. That same idea applies currently with the new teams popping up in Alabama, Mississippi, and Georgia; it’s vital that existing teams reach out and show their support in any way possible. The first few years a team exists are the most difficult, and in a region like the South where every team is already well-established and part of its own fairly isolated community (Floridians with Floridians, South Carolinians with South Carolinians), it’s easy to see how new teams will face adversity in creating a space for themselves and breaking down those borders to create a more inclusive, more quidditch-populated region.