In honor of National Girls and Women in Sports Day on Feb. 5, Savage is highlighting some of our favorite female athletes in some of our favorite sports throughout the week. Next up: Quidditch player Amanda Dallas.
Amanda Dallas, simply called Dallas by those who know her, has been playing quidditch for nearly a decade. She's the co-commissioner for Major League Quidditch, a board member with US Quidditch, and coordinator for the US National Quidditch Team (USNT). When she's not in quidditch mode, the North Jersey resident works in NYC as a technical project manager for IT and security at Better.com. Take it away, Dallas!
Savage: How did you get into playing quidditch? What drew you to the sport?
Amanda Dallas: I’m not your average quidditch player. There’s no strong connection to Harry Potter here — I didn’t even read all the books. A friend of mine in college co-founded the NYU team and recruited me to play. I was very much against it in the early stages and thought it was way too weird — and to think, I didn’t even start playing during the capes era! The people on the NYU team, however, won me over, so I stuck around longer than intended. Ultimately, I ended up enjoying how fast-paced, physical and unique quidditch is. I was drawn into volunteering by Alex Benepe, one of the sport’s founders, noticed the potential for growth and now here I am!
Savage: What's unique about being a woman in the world of quidditch? How do you think being female in this sport compares to other sports?
AD: It’s an entirely different experience sharing the field with all genders and not just your own. Sure, you can do so in rec, intramural and pickup leagues. But those are nowhere near as competitive and certainly not as physical. Inclusivity is literally built into this sport’s DNA and, you can be not only one of the best females at a position, but one of the best of any gender. Unfortunately, it’s rare to get that opportunity in sports.
Savage: Are there any challenges to being a woman in quidditch?
AD: There are numerous challenges, as I’m sure you can imagine. The most prevalent being the frequency of which you’re underestimated solely for being a woman playing a full-contact sport with men. It becomes even more challenging when you’re a female coach in a sport where, like most others, the primary gender of coaches is male. In some of the early years I was overlooked. Now that more people are familiar with me and what I’ve done, I’m underestimated a lot less, but there were times when I would raise an issue to referee and they’d look to my male teammate for confirmation or dismiss me entirely. There are still hiccups here and there; even after nine years I don’t always get credit for what I do. Just last year an opponent came up to me at USQ Cup to praise our male head coach (on The Warriors) for how well he trained the beaters — for which the primary training responsibilities fall to me.
At all levels, but particularly the collegiate level, there are still women and other genders outside the binary that aren’t being treated the same as their male counterparts. I ran a fantasy tournament last summer where only women and those outside of the gender binary were permitted to attend. As part of the tournament, we hosted workshops to go over basic skills: cutting, tackling, throwing, etc. The number of players that showed up to the throwing workshop, specifically, was horrifying. Some of the players had been on notable, high-level teams for well over a year and yet no one took the time to just explain basic throwing dynamics to them.
There is no quick fix to this, but there are small changes individuals can make. Male coaches need to spend just as much time with females and those outside of the gender binary. They’ll spend hours fostering a male chaser’s skill set but then disregard that their female chaser — who goes to the right spot, can score if she gets the ball but struggles to catch a pass — could be an absolute game-changer if they just practice catching for a few more minutes each practice. I’ve been so fortunate to work with some of the most talented women in this sport on both The Warriors and the USNT, and I can tell you, they didn’t all walk onto the field as the stars that they are today. They worked for it and someone worked with them.
Savage: Thoughts on bringing more women into quidditch?
AD: MLQ is currently working on some new youth and gender initiatives to implement in the future. As for what currently exists, last season we introduced the Coleman Clause. Named after Lisle Coleman — a queer non-binary individual who has really pushed quidditch, as a whole, to make strides toward equality for all genders — the Coleman Clause is a coach hiring policy requiring each MLQ franchise to fulfill at least one of the following requirements in their coach hiring process. A team must:
- Have at least one applicant for Head Coach or Assistant Coach that is a gender-minority player; OR
- Hire at least one gender-minority individual as a Head Coach or Assistant Coach; OR
- Have a pre-existing Head Coach or Assistant Coach that is a gender-minority player
for the upcoming season.
In our first season with this policy we added four female coaches and retained one from the season prior. Fortunately, we did not have to penalize any teams, thus, all met the requirement.
In addition to the Coleman Clause, we also introduced a new requirement for all MLQ managers and coaches. All MLQ managers, assistant managers, head coaches and assistant coaches are required to complete Athlete Ally’s Champions of Inclusion, a free comprehensive online curriculum for coaches on LGBTQ+ respect and inclusion within athletics.
Lastly, MLQ currently has a volunteer opening for an MLQ Diversity and Inclusion Manager. We created this role in the hopes of finding someone passionate about and knowledgeable in the development and execution of strategic initiatives and programs related to diversity and inclusion. It’s our hope that having someone specifically dedicated to this role will increase the participation of LGBTQ+ athletes and athletes that are both female and identify outside of the gender binary.
Savage: Who are some of your favorite female quidditch players?
AD: Hallie Pace of the USNT and Texas Hill Country Heat is easily one of the most inspiring — not just women — but athletes in quidditch. She’s small in stature but is an absolute beast on the field. It’s uncommon nowadays to see two women in a beater set together on pitch, but if Pace is on a team, it’s just an expectation that a double female set is somewhere in that arsenal.
Second to Pace in my book is my Warriors teammate and USNT chaser Lindsay Marella. Marella is a natural-born athlete and just transforms any quaffle line she plays on. She can tackle anyone, cut and has a cannon of an arm. Marella truly is one of the elite athletes in this sport, regardless of gender. But even with the accolades she has achieved, she continues to work harder every day to improve, stays humble and advocates for other genders outside of the binary.
Savage: What are your hopes for the future of the sport?
AD: I truly hope the sport continues to grow its gender and diversity inclusion and become more accessible to all. There are still many issues we have yet to solve and many minds we have to change, but nothing is impossible. Quidditch has grown at an incredible pace and as long as volunteers and athletes continue to push the limits of innovation and take risks, there’s a bright future ahead of us.