The World Cup is now only a few days away. How are you both feeling?
Jayke Archibald: I'm excited for this weekend. I can't wait. It's going to be a great time.
Kaci Erwin: I'm looking forward to playing with new people!
At the 2016 World Cup, the US took the silver, which marked the first time you failed to win the competition in its current iteration. What lessons would you say the US team has learned, and how have they been reflected in preparation for this World Cup?
Jayke: Not to take it for granted, to build a team based off of chemistry and not just 21 people [who] are good at playing by themselves, and definitely to form a cohesive team before the fact, as opposed to just landing on Friday night and playing on Saturday morning.
Kaci: I do feel like this team epitomizes those things.
Jayke: And I feel like this team is very well equipped to epitomize those things.
Australia won the gold last time and they've been drawn against you in the group stages. Are you excited to play what must be a rivalry match, or do you wish it weren't taking place so early in the competition?
Jayke: I would not say this is a rivalry match after only one game... However, I am excited to play them. I think it's great to play probably the best team here early on, get a look at them early, and not be surprised in the finals.
Kaci: I am super excited to get to actually play them, but I also don't think it's going to be a problem for us. It's helpful for us, if anything.
Both of you play Quidditch for two of the best club teams nationally in the US, and Kaci, you even won the community division of USQ Cup 11. Is there a step up from competing with an elite national team to playing on the international stage with an elite team?
Kaci: We're playing different opponents. So what makes national teams good is that you get to know your opponents really well and you get to develop strategies specifically for the teams you're going to play. We don't get the opportunity to do that as much here because there's not as much film available from other teams, so it's definitely different.
How would you say the preparation differs between playing with Texas Cavalry vs. playing with the US national team?
Kaci: Oh, it's way different. We're not able to prepare with the whole team for the international squad, but in the national squad, we practice every week. So preparation is within our own minds, within our own groups that are playing together, and then watching as much film as possible.
What are your hopes for Team USA at this World Cup?
Jayke: Obviously, to win the gold.
Kaci: Stay healthy!
What are you both most looking forward to outside of the competition?
Kaci: Getting to know players from other teams, hopefully sharing our knowledge, and also gaining more perspectives from other teams.
Jayke: Yeah seeing how other countries play, different play styles, how they've taken what they've seen. I know a lot of them watch US video and how they apply that. And any new strategies they may have that might work that might not have been thought of in America.
Kaci: Yeah, ways to counteract our strategies.
The USA may be veterans of the World Cup, but for many teams, this will be their debut. Do you have any words of wisdom for them?
Kaci: I would just say, "Do not get discouraged" and that everyone starts from somewhere. The US team wasn't always as highly competitive as they are now, so taking knowledge out of this tournament, taking away strategies, and gameplay styles for them will be very helpful.
Jayke: For the teams that are here for the first time, definitely watch the good teams play, and there's picking up as much as you can, and there's watching film after the fact, and once you go back, just working on keeping that team together and working on growing and improving, and if you have a domestic league, obviously using that to develop players. If it's a team that hasn't yet made it here but is going to make it here next time, and they want to start a team after the fact, it's mostly the same thing, but really develop players at home and use what knowledge you can from the rest of the world.
In your opinion, what would you say it takes to become part of the US national team, one of the most competitive quidditch teams in the world?
Kaci: Obviously, you have to show a high level of skill. Being able to have chemistry with different types of players is important because there are people from all over the US [whom] you don't get to play with normally, so being flexible with that is important.
Jayke: I would say it takes being the best at a certain thing. Having a niche, whether that's defensive, offensive, seeking, anything like that, just being really unique. Also being adaptable, like Kaci said, being able to play with anyone, anytime, anywhere. Also obviously a lot of hard work and dedication and chemistry.
How does it feel to be chosen to compete on behalf of your country at this level?
Jayke: As always, with any sport, representing your country is the highest honor, so it's a huge deal. Yeah, it feels great!
What drew you to Quidditch in the first place?
Kaci: Honestly, I hated quidditch when I started playing it. I just despised it. And then I had a friend who played who would not stop asking me to play. I hated it, but I loved the people, so I stuck around. Now I like it! The people make the sport.
Jayke: I first started in college because I was looking for a competitive sport. I played sports in high school and didn't play anything freshman year, and then I really missed having competitive sports. So one of my friends said the team needed a Snitch [Runner], so I said, "That sounds fun," so I went out and did it. Then I looked at the team and decided I wanted to play for it next year!
Both of you have been involved in the sport for many years now and you've watched it grow. Where do you see it headed next?
Jayke: Well there'[re] two types of growth. There's the international growth of the sport as a whole, and then there's the growth of the sport domestically. When I first started, the rules were one of the biggest impediments to the game because so many of them were so whimsical that it was hard to actually have a competitive sport. It was more of a spectacle.
And now that you have serious athletes playing it, there's been a very good influx of rules, and now it's just fine-tuning them. I think from that standpoint moving forward, it's just tweaking those rules slightly and overcoming any difficulties that arise with a new rule book and just fine-tuning the game.
From the public aspect, it still hasn't hit the critical mass that it needs yet to be that way, but I think there's a lot of inherent parts of the sport that make it difficult to. For example, having a human Snitch will always give the sport a level of unreliability that you can't really have at a professional level. There's just too much potential for bias. Also, referees really need to work at reffing the sport because it's very different from other sports, and people [who] have never reffed before are not prepared for the amount of work that it takes.
Anything else that you'd like to add?
Jayke: I think it's important for the governing bodies throughout the world, including in the United States, to continue to actually promote and grow the sport. It's kind of flatlined in America and that's really not good. College teams are dwindling, college players aren't being retained by community teams, new players [who] have never played before aren't being drawn to the sport at either [the] college or [the] community level.
Then at the international level, making sure things like the World Cup are in the biggest stages with the best equipment, [the best] people, [the best] facilities, everything like that, not making it a spectacle like it used to be but an actual spectacle outside of the game itself.