By François Carabin
As the new season begins, McGill Quidditch will be celebrating an important step: it will be the first Canadian team to reach its 10th season of existence.
In 2008, McGill made its way onto the quidditch scene and introduced the young sport to Canada. In a sport dominated by Americans, it was a next step in the expansion of the sport.
“It was the first team to establish outside of the United States, and put the ‘I’ in the original ‘IQA’”, explains Ema Shiroma-Chao, former McGill beater (2009–13) and former Quidditch Canada Gameplay Director. “It served as the model example for other Canadian quidditch clubs to follow, and for a long time, was easily Canada’s most dominant team.”
Through a strong training culture, but also as a well–oiled management machine, the Montreal-based team slowly gained a reputation and eventually became a mainstay at many international tournaments. McGill achieved top–16 finishes at World Cups IV and V, and emerged as a formidable quidditch team.
A culture of training
The key to these results often comes down to the athleticism McGill displays on the field. For McGill, the importance of practice is drilled into its players’ heads.
“One thing McGill has always valued a lot is being athletically competitive”, said Lina Du, McGill’s current president. “Meaning that we play hard and we train hard. That’s really something that we love doing.”
That mentality has not only been a major part of the first team, but also of the B team, Canada’s Finest Quidditch Club (CFQC), Canada’s first B team. From 2012, this culture of athleticism has been an important factor in developing young players through the ranks of CFQC.
“Establishing and successfully maintaining a second team is something that few other teams have been able to accomplish successfully, with the exception of Guelph Quidditch and the University of British Columbia (UBC)”, said Shiroma-Chao.
In doing that, McGill further added to its successful program. By making it a priority to help players develop fundamentals and prepare themselves before entering a quidditch pitch as an A team player, McGill ensures that it will be fielding quality talent.
This philosophy has tormented many opponents through the years, and has made it very difficult to find any weakness in the teams McGill has produced thus far.
“What’s most surprising when you play against McGill is that everyone is good”, said Julien Bernier, long-time McGill opponent with Université de Montréal and Quidditch Lionel-Groulx. “In other words, nobody looks like the typical rookie, losing their broom or dropping passes.”
However, good performances or not, McGill has always been about culture and atmosphere. If you talk to any number of McGill Quidditch players, former and present, there is a good chance that the word “family” will come up.
“We’re very close as a team and the group culture is very tight,” said Chloe Lau, current beater and VP Communications at McGill. “We really do try to emphasize and foster that culture and we make sure there are events to incorporate rookies and make sure they feel welcome.”
Diana Marie Martin, former beater for McGill, realized that familial feeling in her time with McGill (2010–14).
“There are people who joined the team even after I graduated who have become amazing friends even though we had nothing in common other than having played for the same team at some point,” said Martin. “We not only played quidditch together, but we traveled together, lived together, played other sports together, etc.”
Du agrees. She believes that even though they might be different at first, McGill players always end up forming a large group of friends, be it through team activities or school-related and social activities.
Moreover, with McGill having players from all around the world, the team has had an important influence in the development of quidditch.
“People have played on McGill and ended up going to different parts of North America, or even all over the world,” adds Du. “They got involved in quidditch communities or even started their own club.”
Hugh Podmore, McGill’s former chaser captain, co-founded Valhalla Quidditch after his departure. Internationally, Karen Kumaki, McGill’s first president (2008-10), was later named events coordinator at the IQA; she helped organise the first quidditch Global Games during her tenure in that position.
Shiroma-Chao adds that the overall training regime and strategy advocated by McGill as the years went on had a major influence on the development of Canadian quidditch. Indeed, many former McGill executives went on to serve on the board of Quidditch Canada. That includes Shiroma-Chao herself and also includes notable names such as Liam Flewwelling, financial director, and Nina Patti, former volunteers director.
Success before everything
The team’s 10th season will be one of celebration for McGill. Du confirms a few special events are to be expected, though she cannot reveal too much as of now. However, the team’s main objective always remains to win a national championship at the end of the season.
“Although many other teams in Canada have finally caught up with McGill in terms of skill, training, and talent,” said Shiroma-Chao, “McGill still holds a bright future and will continue to contest for No. 1 status in Canada for years to come. They attract, develop, inspire some of the most dedicated players in the game, and are always a team to be reckoned with in competition.”
It is through these great performances that McGill is looking to make the sport advance as a whole.
“Quidditch is trying to become more of an official sport,’’ said Du. “I’m hoping that McGill is going to be able to help that. I can definitely see [us] continue to adapt to changes within the quidditch community.’’
As a team, McGill has always been tough as nails and hard to bring down. As an organisation, however, McGill can forever be appreciated for their contribution to the evolution of quidditch in Canada. An intricate way of training, as well as a very strong bond between players throughout those ten seasons, has definitely engraved the team into the Canadian game forever.