With the new academic term (Hilary ’14) comes a new set of training for the Reading Rocs Quidditch team. For instance, the Southern Cup – hosted by Southampton – is the first week of Feb, and the Valentine Cup – the mercenary tournament hosted by Oxford – is in a month. However, the UK is still battling against the weather, and sometimes the team is faced with the consequences of the indefatigable weather: grass, drenched through with rain.
I don’t mind the rain, per se; it’s hardly a villainous thing, and, with my new umbrella, I accept it better than I have ever done. What is the problem is what happens when our field is utterly bogged up with the mud we rake up just by running about. One can tell we’ve caused some of the bog if one looks at the rest of the field. Yes, it’s flooded, too, but the low-lying mud picked up by the edges of trainers is nothing compared to the chunks studded football boots pick up.
You might think that what stalls us is the slipping about, but, in fact, it’s the dodgeballs and volleyballs as – and after – they hit the floor. Mud. Splashing. Darting. Drenching worse than rain – it’s thicker and less easy to rub off the balls than water.
And I have been coated in mud during practise twice in one week.
As such, I have given myself the superhero title of MudGirl. Yeah!
Yes, perhaps it is too muddy to perform an entire game, but even the practises of such – the snippet training of individual positions – might be marred by everything wrong with mud. For instance, in this Wednesday training, we were doing a Chaser exercise on dodging bludgers: three Beaters took their stand on the outside of a square. On the inside – Chasers trapped like white mice, with nowhere to run. Their only survival tactic - dodge. Something so valuable in Quidditch games, it is often overlooked in training regimes.
Anyway, I was one of the remaining Chasers dodging. A bludger soared, not aimed for my head, sure, but certainly heading in that direction. My foot slipped in the mud as I lowered my head, and I skidded. Down. On both knees. Across the earth.
I’d avoided the threats, but my rash move had me plummeting to the ground. When I rose again, my knees were coated in thick mud and strands of grass.
At a later instance in the same afternoon, Snitch and Seeker practise – something to which I have no calling anyway – led to a different kind of dodging and ducking. I had the Snitch Sock tucked lightly into my waistband, now my only task was the gargantuan one of avoiding the two Seekers heading at me. I twisted my body, but they’d almost cornered me. And my typical reaction to that? Fall onto my back on the floor.
In summer, that would have left no mark. In this wet winter, the entire back of my shirt soaked and I’d managed to sit at the edge of another mud mire, giving my shorts a handprint of glorious, thick mud. Time to pre-soak my washing again!
Okay, general tips for all you Quidditch fans out there: how does one – and one team – get around the problems of bogged pitches and ruddy weather? Move the pitch to less a muddy space, naturally. But, often, as with us, that is hardly the easy case. We have one space alone and its position is, of all things, near the lake. So, strategic practising is my answer. You’ve got to partition your exercises so that in the worst of the weather, you do less direct running and more of the passing/tactical practises.