By Elizabeth Barcelos and the Glorious Bitches Galore GMs
Update: We initially forgot to include Kim Cheng as one of the tournament organizers in the photo below. This has been fixed. Kim is a delight and a hard worker and we are truly sorry she was initially left out.
Hey femmes and friends, it’s been a while since I’ve written one of these. Considering that I drafted the team that won the West’s first femme fantasy, I think that makes me qualified to write this, right?
Shameless self-promotion aside, I think the draft was pretty well balanced no matter what the standings might say. So, I decided to invite my fellow GMs to discuss our experiences. Some of us are new and some of us have been at this for a while, but this tournament was uncharted territory for everyone involved.
What was your experience with fantasy tournaments before this? Have you ever been a GM before?
Alice Lee (Rosé Riveters): My first and only fantasy tournament was Hella Fantasy back in 2017 when I played on Liz’s team. (Editor’s note: Liz and Alice were drafted by Sarah Goad and Bruce Donnelly.) I had never been a team manager in any capacity before this, and I haven’t been very active in quidditch because of school, so I was probably the most nervous going into this.
Brook Yearin (Daisy Dukes): I’ve participated in West Fantasy and Snow Cup once each, but this was my first time GMing.
DJ Burtch (Inglorious Bitches): This was my 5th time GMing a fantasy team, with the first one being Snow Cup 2016. And I’ve been playing in fantasy tournaments since Beachside Brawl 2015.
Elizabeth Barcelos (Violet Femmes): I’ve lost count of how many fantasies I’ve participated in, but I think I can safely say I’ve been a GM more times than I’ve been a player. I think I’ve run more fantasy tournaments than I’ve played or GMed in. The last time I was a GM was Snow Cup 2017, so it’s been a little while.
Macall McQueen (Mojit-hos): I played at West Fantasy Best Fantasy last year and had a fun time. That’s the extent of my prior experience with fantasies. I was a quidditch captain when I was in college, though, so I had past experience leading a team and running lines.
What were your priorities when drafting your team? Did you have any specific plans or strategies?
Lee: I asked experienced quidditch friends for advice, and they suggested drafting a core keeper, seeker, and beater squad first. Because of said advice, my first picks were Emily Provenzano and Kim Cheng.
I’m a little ashamed to admit that I tended to pick players I was familiar with or have heard of before. Ultimately, I ended up with many utility players and a large chaser line.
Yearin: So when I originally was planning for the draft, I made a huge list where I pretty much ranked everyone based on their primary position but also positions they wanted to try – because that is what this was about. However, once the actual draft began, I really lost all organization and was honestly really lucky to end up with the balanced and talented team that I had. It was also really fun day-of to see people in different positions. I really tried to stay away from drafting players from my home team but I ended up with two – I wasn’t at all upset by that though, everyone ended up working super well together!
Burtch: The fact that GMs could play determined most of my draft strategy. My playstyle is basically being a non-binary swiss army knife, so I “technically” built my team around myself. But not in like an “I’m putting the team on my back” way but more like “I’m the grout between the bricks” way-filling in any gaps/holes there might be because I knew people would wanna play different things.
Other than that, I focused on other players I knew could play multiple positions as well, like Lindsey Simpson (#keeperlindsey), and players that have played together before in either regular season or at other fantasies just so we can skip past that awkward cohesion period.
Barcelos: I knew people were going into this weekend wanting to try new things, so I wasn’t as strict about who I was drafting for what positions. That being said, I got McKayla Major to sign up minutes before the draft because I knew she knew how to keep and that would be rare in this draft.
In the supplemental draft, Anna Huang was my first pick because 1) she’s just good and 2) I already had Elsa Lem. I think they were the only pair used to playing together regularly at this tournament. Most teams run a mixed gender or all male set.
McQueen: My first priority was a solid beater squad, and my second was to have plenty of point chasers. A ton of players had signed up with “keeper” as a secondary position, so I wasn’t too worried about having enough ball carriers. Only a handful of chasers mentioned physicality as a strength, so I made an effort to draft as many of those as possible. I think this strategy manifested in the number of defensive hits we saw the mint team make on game day.
Since I’m new to the west coast quidditch scene, there were quite a few names on the signup spreadsheet I didn’t recognize. To decide between players, I relied primarily on the column that indicated the number of years they’d been playing quidditch.
What was the hardest part of drafting people for positions that they don’t normally play?
Lee: I tended to have my players play to their strengths, but if they expressed a desire to play other positions, that took precedence over all else. Winning was a nice fantasy, but ultimately I wanted a team that would have fun, work well together, and brings each other up.
Yearin: During the original draft, I didn’t really draft people based on the positions they wanted to try. Post-draft though, I posted a poll to all my players about what they wanted to try and also discussed it with them day-of. It was really important to me that people got to play different positions – specifically people who wanted to try keeping – because that can tend to be a super male-dominated position.
Burtch: Honestly I didn’t put much weight on it. I went into the day with a general idea of what positions I wanted everyone to play but remained open to if anyone asked to play something different or try something. I believe my team had a majority of our players play 2+ positions throughout the day which I was kinda proud of them for.
Barcelos: Everyone wants to win and anyone who says otherwise is lying. Balancing drafting a team of people were are known quantities to me in certain positions while giving them the freedom to do other things was the hardest part of the weekend.
How did this tournament change your expectations of how players would perform?
Lee: The biggest surprise for me is how confident the players got throughout the day. Many of the players from my regular team aren’t the most confident and often defer to the more prominent (and often male) players on the team. Seeing them initiate drives and actively coordinate with each other made me proud beyond measure.
Yearin: I agree with Alice – the confidence was a crazy thing to see. Once everyone got into the swing of things after the first game, it was insane to see how much we all improved with communication and general balling-the-F-out!
Burtch: I’m pretty sure I made some predictions about how there would be less “fastbreaks”, there would be more shots than dunks, or games would be low scoring, more from a perspective of players not being used to having the opportunity and those who were not being in game the entire time (DON’T FLAME ME, I RECOGNIZE MY SHITTY HOT TAKES), but I’m 100% happy to have been proven wrong that day.
Barcelos: If you had told me my best offensive keeper/hero baller would be small and quick instead of someone who could truck through people, I wouldn’t have believed you.
McQueen: My last draft pick was an SJSU freshman I’d never heard of and they ended up balling out so hard they won the Rookie Award for the tournament. Shoutout to Keo Jr Elgarico for being a powerhouse.
For the most part, though, I expected my mint teammates to kick ass, and when they did so I was proud but not surprised. Outside of my team, the person whose phenomenal performance least surprised me was Emily Provenzano.
Returning GMs: What changes did you make in your usual strategies when drafting only women and non-binary players?
Burtch: Normally, I try to base my drafts around neat ratios of players based on max number of players I’ll probs get and lines to run (like X number of male chasers, Y number of female beaters), but since I didn’t have that shortcut anymore, I just kinda shrugged and tried to split my team 60/40 by chasers and beaters.
Barcelos: I like drafting the good snitches; they’re usually good seekers and I don’t have to worry about my team having to catch them. But since most of the snitches were new, that went out the window.
New GMs: What made you decide to be a GM? Is this something you’re interested in continuing in fully gender-integrated fantasy tournaments?
Lee: I might not GM again, but mostly because I applied on a whim and definitely did not give my team the same attention and effort as the others. One day when I’m more up-to-date on players in my region and when I can dedicate more of my time to making a good team, I will GM again.
Yearin: I honestly just really love the planning/organizational side of quidditch as much as actually playing. It was already really cool to be able to help out on the TD team, but since this was a tournament about encouraging people to try new things, I thought it was the perfect opportunity to try GMing as well! I feel like this was a really good trial run for me. I’d really like to GM again, although maybe not in the immediate future – I feel like I could get a little more familiar with players in the region before doing it again.
McQueen: Since tournaments without men are rare, I knew this might be a once-or-twice-in-a-lifetime opportunity for many of us. I decided to be a GM so I could make sure we took full advantage of it. I wanted to make sure everyone on my team 1) got roughly equal playing time, 2) got to try positions they’d previously been discouraged from trying, 3) got to play with people they’d always wanted to play with but couldn’t because their captains refuse to put more than two women on the pitch simultaneously, and 4) didn’t get a sunburn.
A week before the tournament, I sent a survey to my teammates asking what positions they wanted to try and if they had any special requests for whom to play with. I then spent a stupid amount of time making different versions of the lines for each game. The goal was to let everyone try the new roles they wanted to try, but not all at once. I staggered the position swaps across games so that there would always be a critical mass of players in their regular season positions to keep things from getting too chaotic. I kept the fantasy fulfillment concentrated in the pool play games so we could get back to our regular positions for bracket play when competitiveness was more of a priority.
Of course, even more stressful than making the lines was adjusting them on the fly as people got injured/failed to sub out on time/asked me to let them chase again because they were having so much fun/etc. But it was worth every second of preparation when I got to see so many powerful women and nonbinary players excel in new roles and have a blast playing with one another.
A fully gender-integrated fantasy tournament, however, would be higher effort with lower reward. Having to follow the gender rule would make the lines more complicated. Without the empowering feeling I get for doing it all for the women and nb players, it wouldn’t be worth it for me. Catch me GMing at the next femme-focused fantasy, but no sooner.
Two-handed tackles: yea or nay?
Lee: I honestly forgot about two-handed tackles until two days before the tournament, but frankly I remain skeptical. Most of the tackles were happening between people similar in size and stature, and I don’t think I’m wrong when I say that many of the players at GBG are not usually very comfortable with contact. It worked out well in this specific instance, but in a regular setting, size differences would probably give way to some serious injuries. When someone my size (I’m 5’2” and a little stocky) gets destroyed by someone twice their size with a two-handed tackle, you’re going to look toward me, and I will say: “I told you so.”
Yearin: Hell yeah. I was a little stressed coming about it going into the weekend, but I was pretty convinced after the first game. It’s not necessarily something I would go out of my way to endorse or try and push into USQ, but I think it’s definitely a fun addition to fantasy tournaments. Putting aside the technicality of it, I also really loved seeing everyone’s’ reactions to it – I feel like, for people who are potentially on the smaller side of the size spectrum, it gives them a better chance of being able to take someone down. It’s definitely a huge confidence booster.
Burtch: I came into the weekend skeptical, and I am still for the most part (I think my first thought was “why the fuck are we doing this”). But after talking out the benefits of them with others, hearing all the positive things people had to say, and being on the receiving end of a few, I guess I’m a bit more open to them. That being said, I wanna wait and see it in a mixed setting before I pass judgment. There’s a big difference between a 5’5” female beater wrapping me up like that and what a 6’2” dude from Texas can do to me.
Barcelos: I loooooooooved watching played bring people down two-handed. I already saw it in the MLQ consolation games and didn’t hate it then. However, I’d pause before using this tournament in particular as evidence that it should be brought into the USQ rulebook. It’s much easier to bring down someone or break out of a two-handed tackle if you’re closer in size. I want to see two-handed tackles in more games (hello MLQ!) that include men before I make up my mind.
McQueen: Two-armed tackles are safer for both the tackler and the tacklee. Less force is required to bring someone down with two arms because the tackler can use their second arm to guide the tacklee to the ground instead of trying to knock them down. The tackler is less likely to dislocate their shoulder, and the tacklee is more likely to be brought down gently. The tackler also needs to slow down enough to be able to pinch their broom between their legs, since they need their second arm for the tackle. This means they’re less likely to engage while running at full speed. These technique-based tackles are much more feasible for small players trying to bring down larger players than one-armed tackles are. Allowing this method of tackling would make physicality in our sport more accessible to women, leveling the playing field and making it safer at the same time. We just need to make sure that we educate everyone on the proper form when we make the transition.
What was your favorite part of Glorious Bitches Galore? Do you think we could bring that to regularly gender-integrated games? If so, how?
Lee: My favorite part is how everyone at the event, playing or not, worked to bring each other up and give constructive advice on how to improve. One of my players, Janice Smith, has only been playing on Wizards of Westwood for a couple of months. Throughout the event, the veterans on my team were giving her and the whole team advice on how to coordinate and improve. By the end of the event, I could tell she had gotten a lot more confident as a new quidditch player.
Overall, for a gender-integrated tournament, I would like to see similar mentorships happening. Maybe make it a requirement to include quidditch newbies on every team? I’m not sure how to implement it effectively, but it would bring that same educational aspect to fantasy tournaments.
Yearin: I’ve said it a few times already, but the CONFIDENCE BOOST some of the players experienced!! That’s something that can be easily recreated by just supporting your teammates, regardless of gender. At GBG, it was created by allowing our non-male players to try new positions and two hand tackling. On our home teams, we can do this by just having a little more faith in our non-male players. Given the opportunity to snitch, seek, or keep – things that are generally associated with our male players – the players at GBG soared above expectations and wowed everyone. If we can support our non-male players more on our home teams, I think it’d make for a lot more impressive play and overall create a lot more fun of a sport for everyone.
Burtch: PASS TO YOUR GODDAMN NON-MALE TEAMMATES. But seriously though. I recognize the privilege I have as an NB/AMAB player (I can take up a non-male slot on a team while “effectively” being a male body on the field), and it’s one that results in more passes/playtime/general trust from male players that I can “do something”. But, if GBG proved anything, it’s that a little bit of trust and faith given to your non-male players can go a long way.
Give these players the support and confidence they need and they’ll be just as good, if not better than the boys. (Heck most of them are already leagues ahead of some of the male teammates I’ve ever had)
Barcelos: Watching people do new things and excel! Jenna Trausch is a rookie and caught her first snitch ever. So many ladies stepped in to head ref for the first time and the games ran perfectly smoothly.
Giving people a chance to succeed and creating an environment where they can (that second part is so key) instead of throwing them to the wolves will make them fall in love with this sport and stick with it instead of burn out and quit.
McQueen: My biggest takeaway from GBG is that playing quidditch without men is euphoric, and I’m more interested in how we can make that happen more often. I’d love to see frequent women and nonbinary SoCal open scrimmages where femme players can show up for an afternoon of casual mashup games that don’t have planned rosters.
What players stood out to you when given the opportunity to play any position?
Lee: My two keepers, Emily Provenzano and Jenny Yu, killed it on the field during our games! I also want to acknowledge Alyssa Aguilos, who did an excellent job seeking, as well as utility players Sofia de la Vega and Belmina Mehmedagic.
Yearin: I was really lucky to have 4 ladies who wanted to keep – Alex Pisano, Kerri Anderson, Elizabeth Ng, and Amanda Turtles. I was super impressed by all of them. Kerri specifically balled out that day – she played as keeper, beater, and chaser at different times throughout the day. She also head reffed (for the first time ever, I think!), so overall, I think she really embodied what this tournament is all about.
Burtch: Liz mentions MVP Dana Dixon, but I just want to bring attention to all the girls from UCLA’s program who played in GBG. They all stepped up in one way or another for their teams, and as someone who came from that same program, I hope UCLA puts a little more trust in them to ball out during the regular season like they did that day.
Another player I want to note is Kristen Williams. From what I saw, her beater play was solid and impressive all day long (and I’m not just saying that cause she beat me in a beater battle) which shored up in my mind that green/mint had probably the strongest beaters in the tourney. Not to mention, she beat Team USA Elizabeth Ng to the snitch to send green to the finals.
Also shout out to my Inglorious Bitches, even with people playing off positions at times and going 0-4 on the day, all the games (but one) were close and we all played some damn good quidditch.
Barcelos: Dana Dixon was the tournament MVP and she absolutely deserved it. We didn’t start winning until we put a green bandana on her head and the quaffle in her hand. If UCLA doesn’t let her try out keeping sometime, they are missing out.
Also, Martha Connolly’s confidence as a seeker improved over the course of the day. She caught our snitch to go to overtime in the final. I thought about replacing her with a minute left in OT, but she told me she had it and I trusted her to win it for us.
McQueen: Chris Rothery for beater! Also, I cried when I saw Kristen Williams’ face after she caught the snitch.
What advice would you give future GMs of femme focused fantasy tournaments?
Lee: This is a time when everyone is learning, including you. Mistakes are fine. At the end of the day, I wanted to see my players satisfied with the effort they put in and with the new things they learned.
Yearin: Come into it knowing you’re going to have a good time. It can be easy to stress about strategy and drafting and whatever else, but honestly, this is a really unique opportunity and it’s going to be awesome matter what!
Burtch: Use this as a learning opportunity, for both you and your players, and take the time to just enjoy the refreshing experience not having male teammates is.
Barcelos: Let the kids play! Keep that mentality in mind and you’ll be fine.
McQueen: Don’t make assumptions about what positions your players will want to play or slot them into roles that are convenient for you. They get enough of that in the regular season.