Thursday, August 13, 2015

A Changing of the Guard

By Andy Marmer

The last few weeks have raised the ire of the quidditch community, and I am neither surprised nor do I fault those complaining. In the past few weeks, US Quidditch has, among other things, released a transfer policy drawing criticism from across the country including this website and announced a fourth consecutive national championship tournament in the South Region and a third straight tournament in South Carolina. Yet, given all of the whining, it’s important to put everything that’s happened in its proper context.

We’ve come a very long way in a very short time. If I wanted to right now, I could play quidditch in six continents. (I’ll need some loans, though.) That’s absolutely mind-boggling. I remember the first time I wrote about quidditch back in the spring of 2009; there had been two World Cups, and you could probably count the number of teams on your fingers and toes and the number of teams outside of the Northeast United States on a single hand. Those who have found that article may note that at the time, I was skeptical about the expandability of quidditch. Players still had the gall to run around with capes on their backs and actual brooms between their legs. From these humble origins, next summer we’re going to see two international tournaments take place, including a Global Games that could feature players from as many as five continents – though three is more probable.

Photo Courtesy of Janet Hoffar Photography
Quidditch is huge now. Twelve teams just competed at the European Games, and quidditch has expanded to over 25 countries in under 10 years. However, rather than celebrating, I am here to sound the alarm of stagnation and fatigue.

At this point there are approximately four people in the world who can make a living off of quidditch. (I refer, of course, to USQ’s tremendous employees.) And there doesn’t seem to be much indication that this microscopic pool of people is about to grow in size. Small national governing bodies are entirely dependent upon the countless hours of unpaid volunteers who have a huge passion for the sport but inevitably have or will soon have more pressing obligations. I’ve watched a number of people come and go through the quidditch community, and as much as all of us wish it weren’t the case, eventually school, work, family, or something else cuts into one’s quidditch time. I know my time is coming. Just in this past 2014-15 season, the leaders of four of the largest quidditch bodies in the world have left in various capacities. USQ (ex-CEO Alex Benepe in April), QuidditchUK (former President Amy Maidment in March), Fédération du Quidditch Français (former President Orel Cosseron earlier this month) and the IQA (the President of the Congress, Matthew Guenzel, stepped down in December) have all had leadership changes in some form, and this seems only the tip of the iceberg.

Photo Courtesy of Isabella Gong Photography
Everything I’m about to say is anecdotal, but it seems that the average age of quidditch volunteers, regardless of associated organization, is higher than it’s ever been. Part of this is just statistics. Quidditch has been around for the span of two college undergraduate careers, and yet it seems to me that our community continues to rely on the same individuals to lead us as we have since nearly the beginning, and fewer new individuals are stepping up to the plate. I’d venture to say that the number of new volunteers in the community is the lowest it’s ever been. There are benefits to this; experience often leads to competence, but where does that leave us in the future? Our current leaders are going to be leaving soon – we’ve already seen the beginning of the exodus and if more people don’t step up to the plate and assume the leadership mantle, the progress that I spent paragraphs celebrating above could halt.

We’ve come a long way on the backs of some great leaders, but in order for quidditch to nurture its longevity so the next generation can enjoy the sport, it needs to assert itself more in the community. I beseech you to step up get involved! There are opportunities of all kinds, all around the world. Most of us had no special skills other than time and passion, and we turned quidditch into what it is today. New generation, it’s your turn to shine. There are a number of ways you can get involved, and I encourage you to contact your local organization, or even the IQA. Even if you don’t like everything you’re seeing, be the change you want to see. You can make a difference. As someone who has had a lot of experience in quidditch, I can tell you that there is no organization that will turn away your help. If you’re passionate enough about quidditch that you chose to read this article, then I’m willing to bet you can help some quidditch organization somewhere. And if you can’t find the proper place with the local governing body, there are still plenty of ways you can volunteer and help grow quidditch.

Photo Courtesy of Sofia de la Vega Photography
The quidditch world is at a point where it depends on volunteers and is soon going to be depending on new blood. The founding generation is on its way out. Those that made quidditch what it is today are soon to be leaving the game, and for the current success and growth to continue, we need leaders who will learn from the departing generation and add their own ideas to make quidditch better than before.

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