Northwest Fantasy 2016 | Photo Credit: Tasha Kiri Photography.
Editor’s note: Previously, this article said that Humboldt State Quidditch played a USQ official season after becoming involved with NCQC. Contrary to this, we have clarified that while they were a member of NCQC, they remained unofficial by USQ standards and have never been a USQ official member team.
By Mitch Hatfield
Barcelos’s Big Idea: NCQC
When the Quidditch Conference of the North (QCON) was still in its first stages of inception, I messaged Elizabeth Barcelos to quiz her about the NorCal Quidditch Conference (NCQC).
Back during the 2013-14 USQ season, Northern California sent four teams—Silicon Valley Skrewts, Stanford Quidditch, Cal Quidditch, and San Jose State University (SJSU)—to what was then IQA World Cup 7. In 2014-15, the IQA and the USQ split into two separate entities, and NorCal only sent the Skrewts to USQ World Cup 8. While the Skrewts were off having the time of their lives in SouCar—that’s a thing, right?—the rest of the NorCal teams (SJSU included) were languishing without anything to work toward.
“If you stop playing after February, your team is going to stagnate and be one step behind the following season,” said Barcelos. “I just wanted to make things better.”
Barcelos’s hope was that by hosting an NCQC Championship in May, she would be creating a more consistent season for the region and giving those teams that did not qualify at regional championships something to keep playing for through the remainder of the season.
To be fair, some of Barcelos’s desire to run this conference was so that she and Lock could be responsible for establishing its structure and rules. One unique requirement of NCQC, stressed heavily by Lock, is that NCQC member teams have a referee requirement higher than that of USQ and that each team be required to field test someone. While Barcelos was concerned early on that this would keep teams from joining, Lock’s pressure and the consensus of eventual NCQC Referee Coordinator Ra Hopkins tipped the scale.
The low number of head referees in the area would have prevented the Fighting Farmers of America—for whom Chris Lock is the HR—and the Skrewts—HRs Ra Hopkins and Martin Pyne—from ever playing one another in an NCQC match. Additionally, that would have required that Hopkins, Pyne, and Lock travel to every single official NCQC match. The concern driving Barcelos’s desire to veto Lock’s idea for the requirement happily proved unnecessary: instead, there was a huge growth in the number of referees, and that growth will hopefully continue on into the coming season.
“[Lock] was right, and I was wrong.” Barcelos said. “The certification requirement was necessary.”
An additional reason for forming NCQC was to assist in the development of new teams in the area and to give teams who aren’t quite yet ready for USQ official status the chance to play with and learn from more experienced teams. In fact, and Pacific Quidditch played its very first USQ season during the 2015-16 season, and, according to Barcelos, improved dramatically over the course of the year thanks to its involvement with the conference. On the end of more experienced teams, three new HRs were certified as a result of NCQC, and NorCal ended up sending a total of three teams to USQ Cup 9—four if you count the Farmers, who’ve moved a bit farther south for the coming season. All in all, it seems that NCQC has hugely benefited the level of refereeing and the level of play in NorCal and will continue to do so for the foreseeable future.
How the Northwest Stole Everything: QCON
While the Northwest is typically known for the distance between its teams, the drive from Seattle-Vancouver along the I-5/Canada 1 corridor is actually not that far, relative to the distance to Idaho or Montana. It was that kind of positive thinking—tacked onto a wish to see more play during the regular season—that started me and Serena Cheong on this journey.
Following that train of thought, Cheong and I decided to list what we saw as the needs of the coastal northwest and how a local conference could address them.
“Speaking for the British Columbia side of the conference: I’m interested in encouraging more play between teams since I feel that we don’t take advantage of that enough,” said Serena Cheong. “We have quite a few teams within a day’s trip here, but we don’t play as often as we should. I think most people in the area also agree that maintaining the crossborder play—which both NGBs seem so eager to suppress—is important, also,” said Serena Cheong.
Our main overall concerns were very similar to those of Barcelos when dealing with NorCal: specifically an overall low number of HRs, an unsatisfying sense of anticlimax after regionals for non-qualifying teams, and the general quality of play in the far northwest.
In order to overcome the first two problems, we have followed NCQC’s suit; we will institute a referee requirement and create a season-long schedule for member teams to play for, with a chance for playoffs and finals at an end-of-season tournament. Our hope is that these member teams will be playing matches once a month outside of tournament play. Clearly we aren’t attempting to do away with tournaments, and we are especially aware of the importance of NGB-official tournaments, which is why our schedule will work to wrap around those tournament dates. The goal is just to get more people playing and refereeing, such that skill level increases due to an increase in competitive play.
We are also hoping, like Barcelos hoped, that this will be a way for budding teams to start gearing up for an official season. While our only non-official team this year is the Portland Augureys (who are taking a step back from official play this season), we hope in the future to help the very small programs established in Oregon, Washington, and British Columbia. This conference, we think, can help in that area like it did in NorCal.
For the first season of QCON, we expect to have nine member teams:
- United States: Rain City Raptors, Western Washington University Wyverns, Emerald City Admirals, and the Portland Augureys.
- Canada: the University of British Columbia, the British Columbia Quidditch Club, University of Victoria Valkyries Quidditch Club, Simon Fraser University Quidditch, and the Vancouver Vipertooths.
Not all of these teams fall within either the USQ’s Northwest or Quidditch Canada’s West region. We chose only to invite teams that could feasibly meet our requirements and also teams who were close enough together that traveling regularly would not put an undue financial burden upon them. It was entirely a choice of logistics. While member teams will still be playing against non-member teams in their respective regions this season, including every team from each official region just wasn’t feasible.
Teams will play matches once a month from November through February, with playoffs and finals scheduled to take place in the months following, slotted in around USQ Northwest Regional Championships, QC National Championships, and US Quidditch Cup 10. The current plan is for this schedule to be flexible enough to shift around in the event of conflicting tournaments.
While much of our plan follows the already-proven success of NCQC, there will be variations:
- Simple wins/losses won’t be the main determining factor on standings. Instead, we plan to use a points-based system and league table (similar to a football league) to track standings. Each match will be worth a maximum of three points. Teams earn three points for a win out of SWIM with a catch, or a win out of SWIM where their opponent’s make a concession catch. Teams earn two points for a win in SWIM before catch, and earn one point for a loss in SWIM before a catch.
Essentially if Team A wins with a catch out of range or Team B makes a concession catch, Team A earns three points. If Team A and Team B are in SWIM range and A catches, A earns two points and B earns one point. While this may seem counterintuitive, remember that our plan is to improve the quality of play. By incentivizing quality-of-play for every minute of play, we hope to see some development of better snitch-on-pitch play, better seekers, and overall increased skill level.
- QCON will have a high amount of crossborder play. In order to allow ease of play, QCON will use USQ Rulebook 10 for games played in the United States and will use QC Rule Book when playing in Canada.
NGBS & Conferences
USQ’s Northwest and QC’s West regions each have unique needs. These regions are huge, and the teams that populate them have unique needs; each part of each region has needs that vary. Obviously, it isn’t feasible for national governing bodies like Quidditch Canada or US Quidditch to solve and serve every teams’ every need, but better, closer oversight and personal attention is where conferences can serve well.
When you look at mainstream sports like football, hockey, basketball, and more, the common thread that unites them is consistent practice and sustained schedules. What you don’t see is a season dominated by high-stakes tournaments as opposed to regular matches.
Tournaments are important, but I believe that it’s only once we start making the change toward seasons populated by individual matches as opposed to weekend tournament events that we are going to more easily make the transition into being a mainstream sport. Major League Quidditch is a perfect example of how this can succeed and will be a great influence on how QCON is run, especially during playoffs; more practice more regularly will help players improve their skills and the quality of the sport locally.
I’d like to advocate for the formation of more small conferences, as I believe they are the future of the sport and will only do good at the local level as quidditch keeps growing.
Editor’s note: If you’d like more information about QCON or getting a conference established in your area, you can contact Mitch Hatfield on Facebook or at firstname.lastname@example.org. Feel free to reach out to Face Beat It by emailing us at email@example.com.