Tuesday, August 11, 2015

An Open Letter To Quidditch Canada

By Jamie Lafrance

Editor’s Note: The opinions in this open letter represent those of the author only and do not reflect those of his team, North Star Quidditch, or the Quidditch Post. If you are an individual or a team representative and would like to publicly endorse this open letter (either as a team or individually), then please get in touch with us at quidditchpost@gmail.com to inform us of your support for this open statement.

I am extremely disappointed in the latest decisions by Quidditch Canada (QC) regarding its membership policy. As a player, I now feel trapped by QC to play in a league I feel is failing to provide its members a quality service. I feel like QC is under performing in the following ways:

  1.      Failing to develop top level talent

  1.      Failing to understand the needs of its membership with regards to
    1. Scheduling Winter regional championships
    2. Failing to confirm locations or dates for major tournaments with less than a month remaining before the season or even notifying teams of an expected date so they can plan.
    3. Failing to adopt a rulebook with less than a month remaining before the start of the 2015-16 season

  1.      Past decisions; including, but not limited to
    1. Placing the Canadian National Championship at a location that made it inaccessible to the vast majority of Quidditch Canada members, resulting in a non-competitive national championship that had only seven teams, as well as holding a formal regional championship that was only attended by two teams  

Many other sports offer teams and players the chance to play in other NGB’s regardless of citizenship, and I feel that although QC is doing its best to better develop quidditch in Canada, it is actually removing the ability for players to enjoy their quidditch experience if they wish for a more competitive aspectAs we have seen in the past few years, the game has stagnated in Canada. Our most recent experience at Global Games proved so; we were barely able to play competitively against Australia or TeamUK. This summer's European Games have shown how far the game has progressed in those countries; on the other hand, that same weekend, Canada's only Major League Quidditch (MLQ) team was only able to take one of three games against an injured, traveling, and shorthanded mid-tier American squad, the Washington Admirals.

I for one do not enjoy the level of competition in Canada. In the past season, I have felt that both my own and my team’s skills have atrophied due to our inability to play meaningful games against the highest level teams just south of the border. While games between USQ and QC members do count in some sense this season, these games do not hold the same meaning for players if they are not in the same league and are competing for a different title. Why would top-level teams such as QC Boston: The Massacre, Rochester United, Emerson College Quidditch, The Warriors, or the Lost Boys feel the need to play a QC team who cannot match up to them in skill or athleticism; even if these teams do choose to participate in matches with QC-affiliated teams, why would they care about the outcome of the game if the score of the match does not affect their own ranking? While Quidditch Canada is hoping to advance the game, the new policy is actually hurting the development of our players by failing to provide an opportunity to play top competition.

This past national championship was won by a team that had not existed one month before the tournament, the Toronto Avengers. This means essentially a merc team won our national championship. To me and many members this is embarrassing and very telling of the level of quidditch in Canada. If a team can be formed and not play a real game before nationals and beat teams who have practiced all season long, what does it say about the skill level of our teams? We need to allow Canada's teams the chance to get better by playing meaningful games against the USQ teams, the chance of which the new policy has eliminated.  On top of the fact our first-ever national champion was a merc team, the fact that it took place in Burnaby, a place that was inaccessible to nearly every team in the league, is a problem that has already been heavily criticized. I do not feel the need to drag that decision through the mud, as everyone is (or should be) aware that the members feel slighted by this decision.

Speaking of poor decisions, I would like to bring up the decision to continue with the hosting of a Western Regional Championships that only two teams could attend. I think it was extremely fiscally irresponsible and also a waste of manpower to host a tournament only two teams could attend, and it cost our league more money than those teams could contribute with their presence.  Decisions like hosting national and regional championships in such poor places, as well as the timing for them being so badly chosen, really cause me to question QC`s critical decision-making power.

In general, the seasonal structure strained teams in a big way. For the previous two seasons, we managed to budget our time and money with one major tournament per semester. Eastern Canadian Championships in November gave teams something to train for consistently for their fall semester. It gave team executives time to spend their winter break deciding if they would attend a larger championship in the spring and to develop a fundraising strategy. Having regional championships in mid-February and national championships in March or April puts a burden on the least-successful training season for Canadian teams, while leaving teams to essentially fend for themselves during the fall.

Decisions from last year don’t really need to be debated again, and I think we all came into this past season with the understanding that it would take time for the league to get its legs under it and discover what does and doesn’t work. Many teams discussed USQ membership early on last year and decided to take the hit on competitive play for a year in favour of helping our new league have a strong start.

But seeing the same decisions made for the upcoming season is incredibly frustrating. Teams began to look seriously at USQ membership as the summer went on. We saw no announcements being made and no adjustments being planned to the seasonal structure. It felt like our decision to give QC a chance was now being disregarded, and it seems we have been left without another option.

I believe QC is sacrificing the ability to be a competitive and respected force in the quidditch community to try to please people on a very superficial level. We are doing so much to be different from USQ that we are making very grave errors that do not benefit anyone. QC is doing so much to differentiate itself from USQ that it is waiting for a rulebook that, at this rate, may never exist, rather than using Rulebook 9 of USQ, which has been tested and debated by some of the most experienced and respected people in the international scene. USQ’s Rules Team has always worked to create a rulebook that responds to the growth of the sport. Especially given that RB9 incorporates rules influenced by sports injury professionals, it’s shocking that QC would choose to disregard such an invaluable resource.

As someone who had the chance to play under the former IQA (now USQ), I know that the system was never perfect, but it did a lot to advance quidditch, such as adding legitimacy, helping develop athletic skills, as well as giving its members a chance to contribute meaningfully rather than just through surveys where results are taken into account as a last step rather than a first.  QC is taking steps backwards in terms of development and legitimacy, and I really hate to question the decision-making skills of people who I know are working extremely hard. However, I am left with no choice but to do so. I really wanted QC to be an example of how quidditch can be run but it is being turned into a joke.

I would hope that in the future both the USQ and QC can come to decisions that mutually benefit both leagues' members rather than flex their muscles and strong-arm their respective members into decisions. The spirit of quidditch as both a competitive sport and a way to play and see friends has been so destroyed for me by the way both organizations have acted over the last year of multiple decisions - including the split from the IQA - that I will now look for opportunities to play sports in a competitive manner elsewhere and even though I have enjoyed quidditch greatly over the last few years, I will solely be acting in an administrative role to support my team. Until QC finds a way to allow its top-level teams to play against top American talent in a meaningful way, I plan on playing in summer events where I will be able to play with friends in a competitive manner as quidditch should be played. At this point, things have become too bureaucratic, and we should just be able to "let the kids play."*

*in a league of their own choice

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