He’s a Keeper

Photo courtesy of James Hicks
Photo courtesy of James Hicks

James Hicks to play on International Quidditch team this summer
By Jenny Hottle / for The Diamondback
Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Originally posted on diamondbackonline.com.

He just started playing quidditch last fall, but soon James Hicks will be playing the sport just miles from King’s Cross Station.

The graduate student earned a spot on the International Quidditch Association’s Team USA and will travel to London in July for the Olympic Expo Games. On May 16, a text from the team’s former president and now IQA Mid-Atlantic regional director, Logan Anbinder, told him to check online, where Hicks saw his name listed on the first-string roster.

“I honestly didn’t expect it,” Hicks said. “I knew we got nominated for it, and it was a long wait. When the rosters came out, I didn’t think I was going to be on the team.”

This university’s Quidditch Team captain nominated Hicks and two of his teammates, junior computer science majorZac Connelly and senior Arabic studies and government and politics major Patrick Rardin, both of whom were selected as reserve players for the national team. They’re three of 42 students selected from about 150 nationwide teams, Anbinder said.

“It’s cool to see that my athleticism has been recognized and that Maryland has been recognized with quality players that can compete at an international level,” Rardin said.

Hicks, who played baseball as an undergraduate student at St. Augustine’s College in Raleigh, N.C., joined the quidditch team in fall 2011.

Although his mother, Ronda Hicks, knew her son was athletic, she was skeptical of his new hobby at first.

“I couldn’t conceptualize it,” she said.

But after Hicks explained the game some more, his mother began understanding how his height and experience with sports could pay off. Next month, she’ll travel to London to see him play.

“I thought, ‘He may be good at this,’” she said. “It’s an interesting sport. It’s a sport that he’s really fallen in love with.”

Although Team USA has not held any practices yet, Hicks said it is favored to win because U.S. players generally have more experience than their international competitors.

“We have a better knowledge of the rules,” Hicks said. “We have a better knowledge of the team game plan.”

While the game may be newer to the other countries competing in the London tournament, Anbinder said he still expects to see some close games.

“It will be interesting to see the different play styles because U.S. teams sort of play in a vacuum where we don’t really get to play other international teams with the exception of maybe at the World Cup,” Anbinder said.

But other teams’ chasers will have to get through Hicks’ defense first.

The 6-foot-1 keeper has a long wingspan that helps him easily guard the hoops and catch the quaffle, the ball used to score — a skill his teammates said they admire.

“It’s like, what? How do you even do that?” Connelly said. “It’s really impressive.”

“He’ll literally grab the quaffle out of the air instead of swatting it down or something like a lot of people do,” Anbinder added.

Once he grabs a quaffle, Hicks then uses his speed and takes the initiative to lead the chasers up the field and call plays, which Anbinder said may make him a leader on Team USA.

This university’s team’s drill-intensive practices — six every week during the semester — seem to have paid off so far. In addition to having three national players, this university’s quidditch team is ranked fourth out of more than 600 U.S. teams.

“We’re still an up-and-coming team, but we’re definitely making a name for ourselves,” Rardin said. “It really started with a group of like five people running around with broomsticks looking goofy on the mall, and now, we’ve got a travel squad of 21 that’s competitive.”

Players said the sport is not always about running drills and working plays. On Sundays, they relax a little and take the game less competitively, Rardin said.

“We realize it’s a goofy sport, and we just mess around,” he said. “It’s just a great time hanging out with the team. We are a giant family, so Sundays are always a fun day.”

Because of the number of practices of week, Connelly and Hicks said their lives mostly revolve around quidditch and school — not that they mind.

“When we aren’t practicing, we are usually all hanging out together, studying together,” Hicks said. “We all have a mutual respect for each other from all the work we have put in together to get to where we are today.”

The university team will continue practicing twice a month during the summer in preparation for next season.

“We’re pretty hard to miss,” Connelly said. “We’re out there all the time, screaming and running around on brooms. We don’t exactly blend in.”


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