While attending tournaments, most players focus on the competition: what opponents they have to face next, what play will lead to a win, and who to watch out for on the pitch. For Sarah Woolsey, going to tournaments not only means analyzing her team's play, but the tournament's organization.
Photos by Kat Ignatova/IQA Photo Editor (L), Quidditch Trading Cards (C), Courtesy of Sarah Woolsey (R)
“Whenever my team traveled to tournaments, I couldn't just go and play and then leave. I'd be like, ‘Oh, look how they did that with the tournament, that's really cool, we should do that,'” Woolsey said. “I was constantly going to tournaments and thinking how can I take what they did and use that to improve how I plan tournaments.”
So when the IQA announced its search for the World Cup VII Tournament Director, Woolsey knew she would be a good fit for the job.
“From the minute it was announced [the IQA was] doing an application for World Cup Tournament Director, I was thinking about it,” Woolsey said. “For me, I wanted to be 100 percent positive that I would be able to commit to that and I'd be able to give the tournament 100 percent of myself because I think that that's really important, to be fully committed. The reason I did [apply] is I am extremely passionate about quidditch tournament planning. My friends joke about it all the time, that the only job I would ever want is to [be] a quidditch tournament planner.”Fittingly, this is Woolsey's seventh tournament as a behind-the-scenes coordinator. In 2011, she helped organize the University of Maryland's (College Park, MD) first Turtle Cup along with Logan Anbinder, who is currently the IQA Marketing Director.
“Even after having worked with her for a year at that point...I was blown away by the amount of work and attention to detail she put into the event, which I think pretty quickly became a hallmark of tournaments with which she's involved,” Anbinder said. “Sarah's priority is to make everything run smoothly before, during, and after the event. She works to make sure players are informed about where they need to be, that games start on time, and that equipment and referee standards are met.”
Woolsey also oversaw the planning of UMD's Shell-Shocking Spectacular, which required her to overcome major hurdles at the last minute. Because of rainy weather, Woolsey and the tournament staff were informed just days before that they would be unable to use their reserved fields, according to Anbinder. While many would have postponed the tournament, Woolsey instead organized her peers to find an indoor space and coordinated the three-field tournament into an indoor arena, with only one available pitch.
The tournament went on to win the IQA's first “Better Than The World Cup” award and was the first tournament to be played indoors.
“This problem-solving is exemplary of Sarah's style of management,” Anbinder said. “I'm confident that even at [the] World Cup, which has more variables than any other event in the quidditch world, Sarah will be able to navigate and lead skillfully to create a fantastic event.”
In the 2012-2013 season, Woolsey served as Logistics Coordinator at the Mid-Atlantic Regional Championship.
Woolsey first entered the quidditch world during the spring of her freshman year at the University of Maryland, when the school's team was only months old. Though her previous athletic experience consisted only of dance and a brief stint with lacrosse, she said that she fell in love with the sport after only one practice. “The team had just started, so it was really new and it was a really great atmosphere and it was a kind of community that I hadn't had at the university before. So I just kind of found a home for myself within the university community on the quidditch team.”In fall 2011, Erin Mallory, a chaser at UMD who recently succeeded Woolsey as team president, first met Woolsey upon joining the team as a freshman. Mallory said that while Woolsey, then a junior and Vice-President of UMD Quidditch, was in the midst of planning a tournament, she still took the time to make each new player feel welcome.
“In the midst of planning Maryland's first tournament she still had time to warmly greet every new player and make sure they felt welcomed and at home when they joined no matter their skill level,” Mallory said. “She is a fantastic organizer and great at communicating, which all helped on the field. As a teammate she's always there if you are feeling down to pick you up, and on the field she will always back you up. As a chaser, I feel very secure playing with her as a beater protecting me.”
Woolsey went on to play in World Cups IV, V, and VI. While Woolsey enjoyed each of the World Cups for their individual reasons, she said that World Cup VI was “the best World Cup” she attended. She most admired the event's support from the Kissimmee community and organization by tournament planners,which made it the first World Cup that she felt players could focus completely on the game instead of things that weren't going entirely smoothly.
One of the things that Woolsey admired about World Cup VI that she plans to continue in next year's event is the balance between caring for athletes' and spectators' needs.
“I think with World Cup VII, it's really important that all players and all teams know that athletes are the number one priority and that their needs will be met,” Woolsey said. “ At the same time, [the] World Cup is a very big spectator event. I think that it's really, really important to cater to the fans, just to have the amenities that they expect and I think that they can go hand-in-hand very well. I think that if you have a really high level competition, that will only improve the spectator experience...I think it's definitely possible to do both at once, where everyone feels like they're the number one priority and everyone feels like their needs are being considered.”
Woolsey also hopes to ensure that World Cup VII includes transparent communication. According to Woolsey, a common pitfall for organizers of tournaments on any level is to lose perspective when considering their attendees. While some may forget that what's obvious about the tournament to the developers might not be clear to others, Woolsey hopes to be very clear to both players and spectators.
Woolsey also hopes that players will come to her and her staff not just with questions, but suggestions for the event. “I really want to build on the strength and accomplishments of World Cup VI, as well as continuing to take feedback of things,” Woolsey said. “I'm very, very big on feedback and collaboration, so if someone has an idea or suggestion, I always want to hear that because I think with the open suggestion of being open to other ways of doing things is a great way of constantly improving.”
In the end, Woolsey said she hopes, above all else, to help the event grow to reach its full potential. “I mean, just to see the work that I did help to make everyone else's experience better was really rewarding,” Woolsey said. “My number one goal [is] making this event the best it possibly can be, whether that's bringing in my own ideas, making sure that I hire the most excellent staff possible for World Cup VII, listening to feedback, talking to people, getting people's ideas...it's really important to me that above all else, the tournament is the best that it can be and that the event for teams, spectators, staff and everybody involved is the best that it can be. [That] is my main goal.”
And for those of you already wondering, even Woolsey does not know where the tournament will be held.
“It's completely up in the air,” Woolsey said. “I think regardless of the experience that the location has with quidditch before [the] World Cup gets there, I think that [the] World Cup does do a lot to increase interest whatever area it's in as well as kind of just promoting in general...I'm really, really excited about wherever it's going to be because I think that whatever area, every place has different aspects, so I think that they're great in their own ways. So I'm excited to see where things shake out over the summer and just get started on that.”If you have a question for Sarah, a Q&A will be running on this site soon. Email your question to email@example.com.