Countdown to Kissimmee: Writing a New Chapter
A little over two weeks ago, I was sitting at the airport, putting together the fundraiser for the Skrewts postseason tournament. I found myself pausing when asked to give it a title. I’m a planner by nature and that means planning for the worst case scenario. I’d quietly mentioned Consolation Cup to our team president at our last practice before regionals and he looked fit to kill me. I evaded a swift death by reminding him that I believed in our team and telling him to pretend that the whole conversation had never happened.
But I couldn’t pretend. After several minutes of staring at my laptop, I typed “Help the Skrewts Go East” into the box because both Texas and Florida are east of Silicon Valley and I didn’t want to jinx things. I might be a hockey atheist, but the Spirit of St. Quidditch is still real to me.
I’m also a big believer in stories. I have a degree in them, after all. Taking events and piecing them together into a narrative helps me bring meaning to life. As I sat in that airport terminal, I was apprehensive. Would the coming weekend be the beginning of the twilight of the Skrewts? It felt like the narrative I deserved after playing Achilles in his tent earlier this season.
Nothing was guaranteed about that weekend. We were ranked tenth in the West and only nine teams would book a ticket to Kissimmee that weekend. I’d been hoping for a pot 2 position. We were pot 3. Our pot 2 team, NAU, was a completely unknown quantity to us. They had no film and we hadn’t seen them play all year. We needed to beat NAU and win all the games we were supposed to on Day 1 or face the long gauntlet to the last bid again.
Two weeks later, it’s easy to think I was worried about nothing. Not only did we beat NAU, but we did it twice. The Day 2 Gauntlet story belonged instead to Anteater Quidditch, a college program close to my heart. They’re more than welcome to being this year’s Cinderella story; I’d probably have to chop off a toe or two to fit that shoe.
Instead, the worst case scenario I’d penciled into the story was immediately erased, replaced with a redemption story. I’d come full circle from the agony of ragequitting to the ecstasy of realizing that I was the first Spartan from the World Cup 7 squad to make it back to US Quidditch Cup. I shed some very unexpected (and very ugly because I don’t know how to cry pretty) tears when the realization hit me.
But here’s the thing: I’m just a small part of the bigger story of the Skrewts. I’m not even their first college player with a redemption narrative. Last year Shirley got to play at nationals for the first time after graduating from Wellesley, a team that can’t be official because a women’s college has a hard time fulfilling the gender rule. Caroline never got to play at nationals, or even regionals, while she was at Stanford. (Her baked goods have, though, so she’s been with us and Stanford in spirit.) A more bittersweet story belongs to our Richmond West squad. They get to go back to Kissimmee with the Skrewts but their college team won’t be there for the first time ever.
But we’re not the only college players on this team. Sam and Rocio left Cal so long ago that sometimes I forget that they weren’t always Skrewts. Tyler started with the Skrewts when he was still in community college, rose above the stupid but mercifully short rivalry the Spartans had with the Skrewts after he transferred to SJSU, and has been the best rival/captain/fellow European team hopeful that a girl could ask for.
And I can’t really talk about college players on community teams without mentioning Andrew. I’ve watched that kid grow up into a man over the past few years, and as much as it might hurt me to say it, it would have never happened if he hadn’t left a very disorganized SJSU squad to join the Skrewts. We (yes, including me) talked a lot about him getting poached, but that’s not what happened at all. He’d practiced with the Skrewts all summer. He intended to play for SJSU, but they trained him anyway. He only approached the Skrewts (and not the other way around; I’ve seen the receipts) because SJSU wasn’t yet sure about being official and he wanted to be on an official team.
Was I happy about it at the time? No, and that’s an understatement. Do I generally frown upon college kids playing on community teams? Sure, generally. But they should never be bashed for it the way he was. SJSU might have been a slightly better team with him, but he wouldn’t have developed as a dominant player, a keen quidditch mind, and as the young man I know and respect if he hadn’t been a Skrewt. I had pretty much nothing to do with it—except for maybe making things harder for him—but it makes my heart burst with pride anyway. (And you wonder why I picked him to coach the Argonauts?)
Then you have the long term Skrewts, who’ve been putting in the work, year in and year out, of practicing, fundraising, recruiting, and volunteering. As rough as qualifying last year was, the Skrewts going to Nationals is just something that gets taken for granted in NorCal sometimes. It absolutely shouldn’t be. Community teams come and go but the Skrewts have been around since Harry Potter inspired names were still cool and going to World Cup just required signing up. The sport has changed and the Skrewts have changed with it instead of falling apart.
Ra and Martin ref your games and volunteer with NCQC/USQ but they love playing and they love this team. (She also played for Cal once upon a time. People forget.) Kevin helped create USQ Gameplay and was one of my inspirations to become a ref but he loved playing and he still loves this team. Forrest may channel George Bush in his presidential style but he loves this team as much as Dubya loves America. Miles may have been a pain in the ass to beat against but he puts up with me when I’m his beater partner and helps me and Steven with our form (along with Kyrie) because he loves this team and every scrub on it. Chewy may not be going south with us but we don’t care because he loves this team and we love him right fucking back. Frank has been on more NorCal teams than most people, but there’s something to be said for a homecoming. I don’t even know how Kyle became a Skrewt and now I feel bad for not even asking.
And we have rookies, too. This isn’t just a new chapter for them; it’s their first. Everyone thinks the Skrewts are old and as and know everything (okay, that’s true too) but getting to experience this sport with Steven and Ham as they feel the magic (yeah, I said it) and the hype for the first time was one of the big things that brought me back and reminded me of why I put so much of myself into this sport. It’s hard to be cynical and believe this sport is dying (though I do think growth is stagnating and colleges need help, but that’s another blog post for another day) when you’re around excited rookies. It’s helped me commit to figuring out how I can the sport going so that everyone can have that opportunity without overcommitting myself.
I joined this team because so many of my friends are here, but the more I think and write about it, the more I realize that I stumbled into something special. Quidditch in NorCal started with SJSU, but the Skrewts were right behind them. I’m lucky to have been a big part of one program and have the chance to keep going with another.
I’ll never be the biggest name on the pitch, but I’ll be damned if any team that has mean doesn’t have the resources they need to succeed. So, if you’ve made it through this tl;dr worthy post, I want you to do two things for me so that I can keep telling the story of these two teams and the rest of this sport as I live through it:
- Support college quidditch in any way that you can. Coach them, volunteer for them, help them fundraise, help them recruit, whatever. I wouldn’t be here without SJSU Quidditch and I never forget that. I hate succeeding without them.
- Please donate to the Silicon Valley Skrewts fundraiser. We have some pretty sweet perks and several of us worked really hard putting together this damn thing. If SJSU was my quidditch gateway drug, the Skrewts are what keep me going.