A man runs across the field, a lone sock hanging from the back of his pants, flipping and flying as he dodges the grabbing motions of seekers from each team.
The use of a human snitch in Quidditch has created an unfair advantage in the majority of games that the Boise State Quidditch team has participated in. The catching of the snitch ends the game and adds a significant amount of points to the seeker’s team’s score.
“When the snitch is caught, it is 30 points, so it’s not the game-changer, it is in the books,” said Stew Driflot, beater captain on the Boise State Abraxans Quidditch team. “But it still plays a decisive role in the game.”
According to Driflot, the conference the team plays in, the Northwest region, is relatively new, created in the summer of 2014. The oldest team in the United States is 10 years old. Boise State is the oldest program with three years under its belt.
This regional youth has created a logistical problem for older teams like Boise State playing newer teams. Other than Driflot, there are no ranked snitches in the Northwest area.
“Within snitches, there’s a ranking system. You can get trained with the United States Quidditch Association,” Driflot said. “There’s a training academy. It’s jokingly intense, and people can train specifically for their play style and body type.”
Under this ranking system, snitches can be gold, silver or bronze, depending on their ability level. According to head coach Kim Couch, training academies are dying out and being replaced with a more plausible method of ranking.
“This year, (to get ranked a snitch) needs to take three separate videos with different teams that play in differing styles so they can see (the snitch) playing against different seekers,” Couch said. “(It is also) so snitches can show their ability and then they can judge the snitch on that.”
Training academies are still held, but snitches are no longer ranked, despite the lack of video submissions that have been sent in for ranking thus far.
“Snitches have never needed certification for regular tournaments, because that would be a logistical nightmare. You’re more likely to get a spot at a tournament if you’re certified,” Couch said. “When it comes to regionals and World Cup, it makes a big difference.”
The difference in quality of snitch can make a big difference in a game because increasingly more games can be determined by the 30-point grab.
“Within snitch range means that if the snitch was pulled by either team it would end the game, and (cause the puller’s team to) win,” Couch said. “Even if a team is 20 down, if the snitch is pulled that game is won by them.”
According to Driflot, a fair game can be hard for a snitch to provide because of the amount of bias while snitching.
“There’s a lot of unfavorable bias when snitching,” Couch said. “If you hover towards the hoops longer or stay towards one side of the field (it can help decide who wins the game).”
This unfavorable bias can often help indicate who won a game, creating a system that focuses on snitch ability instead of player ability.
“It’s important to have good snitches because, if a snitch is caught within a minute then that’s it,” Couch said. “Sometimes, a snitch is caught and it’s pretty much which team got there first. That snitch is probably not going to snitch again, at least, not without more practice. That can make a big difference in a team’s ranking.”