Our Love Letter to Vassar Quidditch

The Vassar quidditch team in a celebratory "quddle puddle" at a tournament at Chestnut Hill College in fall 2017, while Shannon and Maya were captains. Courtesy of Vassar Quidditch.

Did it happen at the beginning of our first practice, all gathered in a circle on Joss Beach, proudly declaring our Hogwarts houses? Or did it happen at team dinners that went late into the night, as we sat in an old Deece sideroom complaining about the food? Or did it happen as we played a scrimmage in a torrential downpour, slipping through the mud but laughing nonetheless?

Neither of us know exactly when it happened, but we both fell in love with the quidditch team. This group of kind and compassionate people showed us how to get to Central Receiving, advised on roommate snafus and made us feel welcome in a new place. We would be remiss if we did not thank Rainah Umlauf ’17, a captain who showed us particular love and guidance throughout our first year and whom we consistently tried to follow the example of when we were leaders. Because of teammates like Rainah, the quidditch team became our family and our home away from home.

In our sophomore year, we captained alongside Nick Wright ’20 and Andy Rutherford ’19. We were excited to implement our own vision for the team: a sports team dedicated to improving our skill and being competitive against other schools. We were lucky enough to recruit eager and committed first-years, many of whom are still a part of this wonderful family as rising seniors, now leaders in their own right.

Our growing team went to tournaments, then fundraised to go to more tournaments. We hosted the annual Yule Ball and organized more substance-free events to accommodate the shifting desires of our teammates. We designed and ordered new team jerseys, hosted a quidditch-themed birthday party for a professor’s eight-year-old and ran an international quidditch tournament. Us four captains were busy Thursday nights, meeting to talk through the challenges the team was facing and plan future practices.

But the work didn’t feel like work at all. Instead, we were figuring out how to hone our playing skills and build a community. We were growing as individuals, becoming better leaders and better friends along the way. We learned how to trust our fellow captains, how to delegate, how to advocate for our own needs, and how to adjust course when concerns were raised. We finished our captainship proud of the work we had done and what our team had accomplished. 

During our junior and senior years, we felt a responsibility as older members of the team to remain committed and honor the trust younger teammates continued to place in us. We are deeply moved by this trust but recognize that in many ways, it was them, not us, who made this team so inclusive and welcoming of all identities and bodies. By the rules, anybody can play this sport, but it was our teammates who created a culture that affirmed each of us in our own right.

However, our team has struggled to balance this inclusivity with being competitive. How can we make every person feel valuable when some bodies, the bigger or stronger ones, are more advantageous in competition? How can we make practice a fun space where people of all athletic abilities can participate, yet also a challenging space that makes us better players? 

We recognize that as leaders and members of the team, we have been unable to answer these questions. As a result, quidditch has lost people who once called the team their family, who felt their voices had not been heard. While we tried to be perfect, we as a team struggled to always effectively listen and respond to the many views of our teammates. 

While we cannot change the outcomes, we have learned that it is never easy to be a leader or a part of any community. We won’t always get it right. Now as graduates, we leave this team with a heavy heart, knowing there were times when we made mistakes. However, we are determined to learn from these mistakes and be better people because of them. 

We hope to leave some imparting wisdom for our teammates. Find a vision that you believe in. It is the passion behind this vision that will keep our team inspired and committed. Remember you do not have all the answers. Work in collaboration with your community and welcome perspectives that challenge you. However, at the end of the day, it is your responsibility to embrace a compromise and modify your vision to reflect everyone’s needs. You have been entrusted with the honor and privilege of making decisions for the team. Make those decisions with confidence, even though you will not always be right.  

We are leaving this team at a strange time. Our senior year was cut short during spring break, meaning that we don’t remember attending our last practice, eating at our last team dinner or hugging our teammates for the last time. We went through those last practices, dinners, and interactions as if they were inconsequential. This comes with a deep sense of grief neither of us can shake. 

However, just as we do not remember exactly when our time with quidditch came to an end, we cannot remember when we fell in love with the team. Perhaps the most meaningful things in our lives happen when we aren’t paying attention. Who knew on that day nearly four years ago when the two of us walked onto Joss Beach for the first time and tried to put brooms between our legs without laughing that we were embarking on a life-changing journey? Where we would become better people and leaders, where we would create wonderful memories and make important mistakes, where we would meet lifelong friends? Perhaps the most valuable lesson of all is to be a little more mindful—for every moment could be a last, every encounter a first, every experience, with the benefit of hindsight, a blessing.

One Comment

  1. This is wonderful. I really enjoyed reading it. I am sure that you and your teammates will remember the quidditch experiences you shared for the rest of your lives. Good luck to both of you and to all the Vassar 2020 graduates.

Leave a Reply to Patricia Russo Cancel reply

Your email address will not be published.