If my first year of quidditch was about exceeding nonexistent expectations, then 2014-2015 was the year of high expectations that ended in disappointment. This was a team that had gone to World Cup for the first time and had the potential to go back. We certainly had the desire, anyway. An overwhelming, win at all costs desire. There’s no way to talk about that regional without looking at the whole season.
This was my worst year of quidditch. I know what you’re thinking, but yeah, it really was. I’ve touched on this period briefly in past posts. Thinking about it now feels like picking at a scab that’s nearly healed over. It also feels like a Controversial Content Problem waiting to happen.
Ugh, this is so hard to write about. If you’ve come here looking for me to point fingers, remember this: pointing one finger at someone else means you’re pointing three back at yourself. This is my blog about how I could have done better; the choices that others made will only factor into this insofar as my choices let those other choices snowball out of control. There’s no hot goss (though it’s more like lukewarm at this late date) here, just a lesson in what not to do.
I was trying to do less quidditch that season (yes, laugh it up) because I was trying to graduate that school year and seriously considering moving to Portugal afterward for grad school. I’d just come back from study abroad and returned to my role as SJSU’s Quidditch’s VP, a role I’d been given because I lost the only contested club officer race. However, our president (I’ll be calling them my co-captain from here on out; we were two of three and eventually four captains) was not in grad school that fall as they had been expecting to be. I only found out about it when we I asked them about grad school at club day that fall. That’s when I got bumped up and became president by default.
We had a great season up until regionals. It was also a season built on lies. Before USQ had a students only rule for college teams, SJSU club sports already had one. This was our first full year as a club sport and I wanted to play by the rules because we’d taken a long time to pay back the club sports credit card bill we’d racked up for our trip to World Cup VII.
But I also wanted to win, so when my co-captain told me that alumni were allowed… I didn’t follow up. I believed them. I wanted to win and I wanted to do it with the fresh blood we’re recruited and the seasoned alumni players we had. It felt so good to have more than 21 players to choose from.
I only started following up when I got benched in favor of an alumni player at my first home tournament. If I had played, my parents would have come to watch me play quidditch. Instead, they stayed home and have never seen me play to this day. Instead, I started digging for the truth because I felt personally slighted.
A truth I wasn’t looking for but got shoved in my face anyway was that we hadn’t completed our referee test requirements. I swore up and down to McLaren and Evan, our state rep and regional coordinator, that they couldn’t be right. SJSU wasn’t missing our head ref test because my co-captain had told they’d passed the test and he wouldn’t lie to me about that.
That back and forth ended with me crying on the phone to Evan, begging for an extension that he couldn’t give, because no one could get ahold of my co-captain and I’d only passed the assistant referee test. Considering that I hadn’t been able to pass any referee tests the year before, I didn’t think I could pass the snitch and head ref tests in time. This was back when you had to wait a week before retaking a failed ref tests.
Evan comforted me as best he could. Between cramming like crazy and the blessings of the Spirit of St. Quidditch, I managed to pass all my tests. I remember thinking right before I submitted my score, “If I fail, I have to tell everyone why we’re not going to regionals,” because my co-captain certainly wasn’t going to.
By regionals, I was livid with my co-captain, mad at myself for not doing anything sooner, but desperately trying to put a brave face on things. Our pool included the Dobbys and Long Beach, two teams we’d beaten earlier that season. A reporter from the Spartan Daily came by our last practice before regionals and I went from putting a brave face on things to stupid bravado. I said we were in a great position because we could beat those two teams again. Never mind that club sports had confirmed that we couldn’t have alumni and that we were going to regionals with out weakest roster of the year.
That’s the only Spartan Daily that featured SJSU Quidditch that I didn’t save. I didn’t want to keep any proof of my shame.
I knew Long Beach would beat us (they did) but I still clung to some glimmer of hope. When the Dobbys beat us, I knew we were truly done but said nothing. Santa Barbara continued their win streak against us. We managed to pull out a win against Arizona, giving our rookies (and me, honestly) a confidence boost we desperately needed. Then we drew the Dobbys again in the play-in round and were eliminated.
While I remember the results, I don’t remember the games themselves all that much. What I do remember is the searing shame I felt every time I was asked, “What happened to you guys?” “Where’s the rest of your roster?” “Why isn’t your co-captain playing?” New jerseys and my desperate attempts to put a positive spin on things couldn’t disguise the fact that we’d absolutely imploded at regionals.
When another team approached me and asking for my blessing because my co-captain wanted to transfer to them due to the SJSU club sports ban on non-students, I gave it. Why not? I liked that team and still do. I want and wanted them to do well, and while my co-captain was a terrible co-captain, they were a pretty good quidditch player. That transfer was denied because gameplay knew his status hadn’t changed; he hadn’t been a student all year. A small comfort.
I came home from that tournament physically and emotionally wrecked. There was a terrible post-regionals captains meeting that ended with finger pointing, blame, resentment, and me stepping down as a captain so that my co-captain could keep coaching the team without me in the way. I regret not standing my ground, but really, I should have done that at the beginning of the season. By February, I was too tired.
What should have happened was this: I should have spoken up at the beginning of the year. I should have made the hard call of telling the alumni that they couldn’t be on the team anymore. We should have been training the players we did have to be better instead of making the easy choice of depending on experienced veterans to carry us, regardless of their enrollment. That home tournament where I got benched at also benched two other players. And all three of us were students. We should have been playing and getting better.
Instead, one is now a head ref, one is a tournament director, and then there’s me: the overachiever with something to prove turned overextended burnout turned redemption seeker. I can’t speak for the other two, but that season and that regional taught me to look at the bigger picture. Chasing short term glory crippled my team long term. The next season we had all new captains, allowing the team to start over.
As for me, I advised our new captains when they asked for it, but I wanted them to make their own choices and have a clean slate without any of my baggage. But I also wanted to prove there was more to me than a season of failed hopes. After some short time off, I reevaluated my priorities and came back to quidditch. (Yikes, that sounds painfully familiar now.)
My first task was not about SJSU Quidditch, but to create Hella Fantasy because I wanted NorCal to have its own fantasy tournament. That garnered me enough goodwill and the credentials as someone who gets shit done to create a conference for NorCal. Shortly afterward, I got tapped to replace Evan Bell as West Regional Coordinator. I wanted to do for other captains what he’d done for me. I wanted to make quidditch better for the greater whole, not just myself or the few people on my team.
And that, really, is why I wrote this. I don’t want what happened to me, to my team, and even to my co-captain, to happen to anyone else. Sometimes we get selfish. Sometimes we fuck up. Sometimes we get hurt feelings. I don’t think I’m any better than anyone else that makes a mistake so long as they try to learn from it. I want to be a good example but I know that I’m not perfect. But if we don’t look back at why things happen and learn from where things went wrong, we’re going to keep fucking up and letting other people down.
Thanks for reading; I promise tomorrow’s entry won’t be nearly as much of a didactic downer.