A&M quidditch teams seek national championship
Published: Wednesday, February 20, 2013
Updated: Wednesday, February 20, 2013 01:02
They may not fly through the air at break-neck speeds or fight trolls in bathrooms, but ranked No. 1 in the world, the Texas A&M quidditch team is not to be disregarded as a group of wand-waving fanatics.
With over 800 teams in the U.S. alone, quidditch has evolved from a group of enthusiasts’ pet project in 2005 at Middlebury College into a national sport about the spirit of competition and camaraderie.
“We don’t think we fly. We’re not role playing. We’re competing in an athletic event,” said Rebecca DuPont, president of A&M’s quidditch team and junior bioenvironmental science major.
Performance Studies professor Amy Guerin is one of the team’s faculty sponsors, and has a great deal of respect for the team.
“Their commitment to pursuing this sport is admirable because they are not cavalier about it,” Guerin said. “They treat it very respectfully. They have figured out a way to really raise the level of the game and raise themselves to more than just an intramural level of playing, but like a real competitive sport.”
Harry Potter vs. A&M
Senior mechanical engineering major and head intercollegiate coach Drew Wasikowski believes the manifestation of a game once only seen in movies into a legitimate sport can be attributed to warring ideas on how the game should be enjoyed. In the beginning, people were playing for the “whimsical” aspect of the game and then more people became involved for its competitive side.
Wasikowski acknowledged the “Harry Potter” movies’ role in first sparking his interest in quidditch.
“I, of course, loved Harry Potter,” Wasikowski said. “I like it being more competitive, because it treats us more like actual athletes.”
Wasikowski admitted that it is easy for people to be skeptical about the sports legitimacy because the idea of people riding on brooms can seem silly.
According to DuPont, brooms are not always required for low-level competition. All that is required is an object of a certain length that won’t injure someone.
Rosemary Ross, sophomore psychology major explained that certain players on the team bring uniqueness to the idea of riding a broom that helps to lighten the absurdity.
“People who just want to tryout and play can bring whatever; if you can ride it like a broom, that’s fine,” Ross said. “Some of our players have signature things like a plastic baseball bat and a foam sword.”
Club Sport Status
Despite being ranked No. 1 in the world, the Texas A&M quidditch team has not yet been granted “club sport status,” which would allow them to reserve intramural fields for practice time and receive funding for the more costly aspects of the game, such as equipment.
Texas A&M quidditch team members depend on fundraisers, profit shares and membership dues to provide funding for travel and equipment, but most of the expense is paid for out of pocket. Even occasional medical expenses resulting from sport related injuries must come from each player.
“I spend a lot of money on quidditch every year,” DuPont said. “I buy receiver gloves, cleats – I had to buy an ankle brace earlier this year because I sprained my ankle. I chipped my tooth this summer and I paid for fixing my tooth, so it gets pretty expensive.”
Backgrounds and Practice
DuPont explained that because the sport incorporates many players from non-athletic backgrounds, people have to prepare for playing this contact sport very differently.
“I was a band nerd in high school, so my background is a lot different from the guys who played football in high school,” DuPont said.
Although the sport is coed, tackling is still a very important part of the game. Players can tackle one-handed as hard as they want as long as they do not tackle from behind.
“Guys will not show me any mercy; they’ll tackle me,” DuPont said. “I feel like a lot of our girls are pretty unique in that our girls won’t shy away from contact.”
To deal with the need to specialize training for their niche population, the team has conscientiously tailored their practices for maximum benefit by breaking them up into three segments: conditioning, drills and scrimmaging.
The first segment of practice is led by “conditioning coach” and senior chemical engineering major, Dominique Gauchei.
In order to enhance the team’s performance, Gauchei utilizes his former soccer experience by incorporating mundane exercises into every practice, such as running laps and doing sprints and pushups.
During the drill segment, the team splits up by position and works on specialty skills such as passing, shooting, blocking shots, tackling and even more conditioning.
The scrimmage portion of practice serves a very important purpose. In addition to adding extra conditioning and practice for essential skills in game situations, the players learn to mesh with each other’s strengths and weaknesses and work on the moderation of playing intensity.
“We try to find the right balance of getting enough practice in while not injuring each other,” Wasikowski said.
Guerin said whatever goals they set for themselves as a student organization – to put together multiple teams within the organization, to travel, to host tournaments, to rise in the rankings – they meet.
One goal the quidditch team hopes to achieve is more support from the A&M family. They hope to make some headway with this goal at the Southwest Regional tournament.
Texas A&M will host the Southwest Regional tournament at the Penberthy Intramural turf fields on Feb. 23 and 24. About 15 teams are expected to compete in the tournament, including University of Texas, Baylor, University of North Texas, Sam Houston State, as well as teams from Los Angeles, Arkansas, Oklahoma and Colorado.