The Quidditch Olympian

Team USA competed at the Olympic Quidditch Expo Tournament in Oxford, England, this summer. Photo: Bernard Scott Taylor

This is not your wizard’s Quidditch.

Yes, players run with brooms wedged between their legs (wearing Spandex, of course, to prevent “bristle burn”). But in Muggle Quidditch, feet remain rooted firmly on the ground, and the snitch – that pesky winged golden sphere – is just a small ball velcroed to the waistband of the snitch runner.

As chaser for the first United States national Quidditch team, Kedzie Teller has the following bragging rights: he’s one of the top 21 Quidditch players in the country. He competed alongside the Olympic Torch Relay. He’s basically a real-life James Potter, minus that detail about fathering The Boy Who Lived.

Quidditch first manifested as a Muggle sport at Middlebury College in Vermont, the birthplace of the intercollegiate Quidditch World Cup in 2007. Now, 824 teams exist in the U.S. alone.

Although Teller brought home a gold medal from the Olympic Quidditch Expo Tournament in Oxford, England, this summer, he bemoans the reality that many perceive the sport as “a bunch of goofballs with brooms” chucking balls into trash cans. But to Teller and his teammates, the broom compares to a tennis racket on the court or a baseball bat on the diamond. It defines the sport.

Age: 22
Graduated from: Boston University, degree in journalism
Based in: Boston, Mass.
Years playing Quidditch: 4
Position: I’m one of three chasers. We rack up points, which means we manipulate the quaffle – which looks like a volleyball – to score on one of three hoops. It’s a full-contact sport.

Don’t try this at home. Source: harrypottergif.tumblr.com

Did the Harry Potter series spark your interest in the sport? I’ve read all the books and seen all the [Harry Potter] movies, but I can’t call myself a Potterhead. I’ve never been to a midnight release.

So why Quidditch? I was recruited to Boston University for track, but after my first year on the team, decided it wasn’t for me. I’m very competitive, and needed to get involved in another sport. When I saw a Quidditch match at the Boston Commons, my friends and I decided to go to a practice. Then I started playing, and took on a leadership role [as team captain for two years]. People knew me as “the Quidditch kid.”

Ratio of Potterheads to competitive athletes on your college team: The beauty of the sport is that it attracts a spectrum of people. On one side of the gamut, you have Harry Potter-obsessed people living their dream. Then, there’s the really intense athletes. It’s nice to have a chance to see those two types intermingle.

How did you learn to run with a broom between your legs? It’s funny watching it for the first time, and it’s always awkward. In the beginning, I got sidelined a lot because I thought I had more dignity than holding onto the broom. But then it becomes second nature, like riding a bike.

“This photo is definitely of an illegal tackle, but it still looks fun,” Teller says. Pictured: Boston University playing against Emerson College.

Have you sustained any serious injuries from Quidditch? I sprained my ankle at a regional tournament last spring, but that’s about it. There are lots of cuts and bruises among amateurs who don’t know how to use brooms, but the most common injury during games is concussions from people hitting heads.

I imagine you don’t use household brooms. The ones we use are made specially for Quidditch. The most commonly used broom in today’s game is called a Shadow Chaser, though many teams also use Scarlet Falcons. I have one of each, and I don’t differentiate between matches and practice. You’ll see PVC pipe homemade brooms in many tournaments, since they are cheap to make.

Do you play Quidditch daily? After the Olympic tournament this summer, I’ve been in a lull. Sometimes, I help out my college team; I’d love for them to gain club sport status, since it’s still considered a social club. But my main priority is planning for Boston Massacre, a community Quidditch team that I’m launching in May. Right now, I’m building the buzz for that, as well as working with the International Quidditch Association (IQA) to hold an international tournament in April 2013.

How do you pay the bills? I’m an information risk specialist at MassMutual Financial Group. But I’m tapping my fingers, waiting for the day to end so that I can play Quidditch.

Does your health insurance cover Quidditch-related injuries? [Laughs.] I’m on a good program that helps me cover the expense of a few injuries per year. [Mass Mutual] is super supportive; I actually went through the hiring process while I was overseas competing in the Olympics Quidditch tournament.

The gold medal that Team USA took home after the Olympic Expo Games this summer in Oxford, England. Photo: Kedzie Teller

Some Quidditch teams wear capes. What does your uniform include? Our team [at Boston University] nixed the capes about four years ago. Now, they look like soccer uniforms – knee-high red socks, black shorts, white jerseys, whatever cleats we can find. Our jerseys for Team USA [see right] are made by Quiyk.

Best part of your position on the U.S. national team: Knowing that we’re building the foundation for something bigger – that we’re building a future generation of Quidditch players. Sports programs are reaching out to local Quidditch teams to run training sessions in elementary schools called Kidditch.

Most challenging part of the position: The reactions from people who don’t understand Quidditch. I’ve been an athlete for as long as I can remember, so to be part of a sport that other athletes look down upon – that’s not great for the ego. It’s also hard not getting the support we need. To many universities, we’re just goofballs with brooms asking for field space. They don’t think we deserve it, so we end up playing on a patch of grass behind a building.

Do your parents understand your passion for the sport? My mom didn’t at first, but she is one of my biggest supporters now. My dad almost broke into tears when he found out I made the national team; he knew how much it meant to me. The second I got picked for the team, I updated my Facebook status, and it got 400-something likes within four days. If I could relive any moment, it would be finding out I made the team.

Your Twitter must-follows: I follow the IQA religiously for Quidditch news; Serena Williams, since tennis is my other great passion in life; and The Boston Globe and The New York Times, since I’m a news junkie.

LAUNCHING YOUR CAREER >> Don’t be shy about reaching out to the IQA. You don’t need to know a lot about Quidditch to get involved. And don’t let people decide things for you. If I had listened to everyone around me, I would not be playing Quidditch right now.

Follow Kedzie Teller on Twitter @Kedz and on his Facebook fan page. PLUS: Find the full rules of Muggle Quidditch at InternationalQuidditch.org.

Next: Odd jobs at the Olympics

The Snooze Director

Trouble falling asleep may be linked to drinking coffee or working out too late in the evening, says Emily Barrett, Sleepy’s first-ever Snooze Director.

Eighteen years of sleeping of experience. Check. Ability to fall asleep on a Sleepy’s mattress during daylight hours. Check.

At 24, Emily Barrett is the first person to hold the title of Sleepy’s Snooze Director. The position was created last year in an effort, Barrett speculates, to create a media buzz. But in the wake of nabbing the job, she has transformed the position into an integral role at the mattress retailer’s 4,200-square-foot headquarters in Hicksville, NY, where she helps manage Sleepy’s Facebook and Twitter accounts. Barrett’s friends – recent college graduates who are starting to move out and buy new mattresses – recruit her to tag along as their go-to mattress guru.

Unlike many in social media positions, Barrett isn’t a salesperson or public relations pro. Instead, she touts herself as the “Sleepy’s cheerleader” with the goal of educating consumers on how to improve health based on a good night’s sleep. “[Humans] spend about a third of their lives in bed,” she says. “You need to be willing to invest in your sleep. People tend to want to spend more money on their TVs than their mattresses.”

Editor’s note: the jury is still out on whether singles or couples sleep better at night.

Age: 24
Based in: Hicksville, NY
Graduated from: New York University, degree in media communications
Previous jobs: I graduated in May 2011, and was hired for this position in June 2011.

Describe what you do in one sentence. I work with social media for the Sleepy’s brand; I run the Twitter account, help with its Facebook page, and maintain the Sleepy’s blog.

What qualified you for the Snooze Director position? At my past internships at radio stations, a big part of my job was blogging. I emphasized my personal use of social media and ability to make videos. Because Sleepy’s accepted applications through Facebook and YouTube, as well as through regular recruiting websites, applicants were able to show much more of who they really were.

How did you hear about the job? My aunt sent me a link to the posting on CareerBuilder.com. I was hesitant to apply, since it was just a temporary part-time position, but my aunt pushed me to. In September, I became a full-time employee.

Did you have to test mattresses as part of the interview process? After my first interview with the recruitment department, I was called into the Sleepy’s showroom do an interview for an evening segment on Channel 7 News with two other candidates. They set up a scene and had us jump from bed to bed, which is definitely something I’ve never done during an interview before. [You can watch the segment here. Be prepared for puns like “dream job” and “thinking out of the box spring.”]

Hours you sleep on a regular basis: At least eight or nine. I’m a really good sleeper – that might be another reason I got the job. [Laughs.] Even in college, I usually never got fewer than six hours of sleep and never pulled an all-nighter.

Any tips for those who have trouble falling asleep? White noise really helps me, as does my air conditioning – it’s important to be cool when you’re going to sleep. But at the end of the day, it always comes back your mattress.

Signs you’re ready for a new mattress: If you can see dips in it, or if you can’t remember when you purchased it. If it’s been more than five to seven years, it might be time for a new mattress, since our bodies change within that window of time. I actually just bought my first new mattress a few months ago.

Signs you’re ready for a new pillow: Take the pillow test. Fold your pillow in half and place a light weight on it, like a shoe or book. When you remove the weight, the pillow should flatten out. If it stays folded, that means it won’t hold the weight of your head, and it’s time for a new one.

Best part of your job: Interacting with other departments. Since everyone at the company sees my name and title on the Sleepy’s blog, they often reach out to me. I’m kind of the friendly face at Sleepy’s – the Sleepy’s cheerleader, if you will.

Most challenging part of your job: Along the same lines, lots of people are always reaching out to me with new projects, and it’s tough to stay on top of all of them. I’m a one-person team, so I can’t really delegate anything. At a certain point, I’ll know when to say “no” to new projects.

One gadget you can’t live without: Probably my cell phone – it’s the only alarm clock I have. I turn it on vibrate and place it upside-down on top of a pillow on my floor when I go to sleep, so I don’t hear it if I get a message in the middle of the night. Then, the sound kicks in for the alarm in the morning. I can’t remember the last time I used an actual alarm clock.

Photo: dogkidz.com

Are you an advocate of naps? Personally, I don’t take naps, but I advocate for them (unless you’re an insomniac). I’m a big fan of offices that allow naptime; it single-handedly increases productivity tenfold.

Some workplaces, like The Huffington Post, encourage employees to use their nap pods. I’m in awe of that.

Are you a coffee drinker? I love coffee, but I stick to one cup in the morning. This job really made me cut back from college, when I drank multiple cups every day. Cutting out your afternoon coffee can really help you fall asleep at night. I even tried an experiment in which I completely stopped drinking coffee for one week. It made me realize I didn’t need coffee for energy, and I felt that I was sleeping more deeply.

Perks of the job: Sleepy’s sent me to the Kingsdown factory in North Carolina, one of the last mattress manufacturers in the United States, where I got to see the whole process of making a mattress. It kind of looked like making a sandwich, but with metal, foam, and automatic sewing machines. Another perk is being able to help my friends and family when they complain about getting a bad night’s sleep.

Annual salary: Between $30,000 and $40,000.

LAUNCHING YOUR CAREER>>
Take a chance on crazy jobs. I applied to the Snooze Director position on a whim, and now, I’m well-respected within the company. Be persistent and confident, and let your personality shine.

More from No Joe Schmo: meet the Oscar Mayer Hotdogger, who is another recent college graduate.

Foodie Friday: The Oscar Mayer Hotdogger

Ketchup Kylie in front of the Oscar Mayer Wienermobile.

Kylie Hodges graduated twice within one month. Once was from the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh, where she turned her tassel and received a diploma; and once was from Oscar Mayer’s Hot Dog High, where she took an oath with a hot dog in hand.

Even though Ketchup Kylie – as she’s affectionately known by her fellow Oscar Mayer Hotdoggers – just graduated in May, she has pursued the position ever since auditioning to sing the Oscar Mayer jingle as a little girl. Growing up in Madison, Wisc., home of the hot dog headquarters, Kylie saw the Wienermobile maneuver around town on a regular basis.

After 14 days of Hot Dog High and 40 hours of Wienermobile driving training, she hit the road. For one full year, Kylie and one fellow Hotdogger traverse the northeastern part of the country, with Destiny’s Child music blaring from the van’s speakers.

Title: Oscar Mayer Hotdogger
Age: 21
Graduated from: University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh, degree in radio/television/film
Previous jobs: Waiting tables in college

What the job entails: We’re brand ambassadors for Oscar Mayer and the Wienermobile, so we attend fairs, festivals, parades, and promotional events to talk with people and hand out coupons, stickers, and wiener whistles.

How you got the job: Oscar Mayer’s Hotdogger program recruits at a handful of different major universities across the United States, but I knew I wanted this job since I was a little kid. I applied online and found out I got the job before graduation; I graduated on May 15 and started on June 5.

Hot dog fate? Kylie, age 6, in front of the Wienermobile.

Coolest part of the job: Last week, for the 75th anniversary of the Wienermobile, I handed out wiener whistles on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange while Oscar Mayer’s vice president rang the opening bell.

Wow, the Mobile is 75 years old? Carl Mayer, the nephew of Oscar Mayer, designed it in 1936 as a way to sell hot dogs around Chicago. Over the years, it was revamped into a marketing tool. Now, it’s nostalgic to American culture.

So you don’t sell hot dogs from it anymore? No.

Something people would be surprised to learn about the job: People think we live in [the Wienermobile], but we stay at hotels every night.

That must get pricey. On top of our weekly salary, Oscar Mayer takes care of our accommodations and gives us a food allowance. But I still negotiate for my stays when I tell hotels I’m bringing the Wienermobile, which teaches me about sales.

Favorite part of the job: The Wienermobile brings out the gracious part of people. It’s magical to kids. I also love traveling the country; it’s like my own little study abroad.

Most challenging part of the job: Sometimes, on my off days, I get homesick or don’t want to leave the hotel. But then I make myself go places, and I talk to the coolest people.

Like whom? One family we met at the Safeway National Barbecue Battle in Washington, D.C. were huge Wienermobile fans, so they invited us over for a true Maryland seafood dinner and showed us around Annapolis. That’s something you won’t experience at a regular job.

Ketchup Kylie and her co-Hotdogger, Dylan (aka Dyl-icious) in New York City.

What does the Wienermobile look like inside? It’s painted to look like a sunny blue sky with clouds. The roof – which we call a “bun roof” instead of sunroof – opens up, so we can sit on top during parades and wave. The floor has condiment-splattered carpeting, and the door opens up like the DeLorean in Back To The Future (see left). The six seats are ketchup- and mustard-colored.

You can’t possibly drive across the entire country all year. There are six Wienermobiles with two Hotdoggers per vehicle. We’re each assigned to a specific region of the country, and I do the northeast area, from Maine to Virginia and as far west as Indiana.

Do the other Hotdoggers have names like “Ketchup Kylie”? Yes! Some include Turkey Dog Tyler, Beefy Brian, Deli Fresh Danica, Bacon Lettuce and Taylor, and Dyl-icious. They’ll probably all be at my wedding.

Are you sick of hot dogs yet? No, since I usually eat at restaurants and hotels. Hot dogs were one of my favorite foods as a little kid – either with ketchup or some macaroni and cheese, if I’m feeling crazy.

Your driving mix: Beyonce and Destiny’s Child before an event to get pumped up. During events, we play CDs with 20 different versions of the Oscar Mayer jingle – from the Beach Boys version to the hip-hop version to the Spanish version.

What’s the prep process for becoming a Hotdogger? We attend Hot Dog High for two weeks, at the end of which we say an oath with a hot dog in hand. So I graduated twice in one month – once from college, and once from Hot Dog High. I’m not sure which I’m more proud of.

Where do you see yourself at the end of the one-year gig? I plan to apply for NBC’s Page Program. Hopefully, in five years, I’ll be living in Los Angeles and producing for a live television show.

WATCH: [via 5min]

LAUNCHING YOUR CAREER>>
Working as a Hotdogger is a great way to relish life, Kylie says.

1. To apply, submit your resume online or mail a hard copy to the Oscar Mayer Wienermobile Department. I altered my resume to include things I wouldn’t normally include, like hosting a college radio show called “Mama Kylie’s Feel Good Elixir.” Many Hotdoggers include theater or music experience.

The close-knit group of Hotdoggers send each other letters and mix CDs in mail.

2. Oscar Mayer recruiters look for a four-year degree, but you don’t need a specific major. It’s all about personality and what you can bring to the table that makes you sparkle. You need to be fun, animated, and really flexible, since people will be talking to you all the time. (SEE: the perks of a side job outside your industry.)

3. This is a job about being goofy; you can embrace your strangeness and dance like a weirdo outside the Wienermobile. Pretty much any Hotdogger will tell you it was the best year of their life. You’ll forever be a changed person, in a better way.

Check out the Hotdoggers’ blog about their on-the-road experiences at Hotdoggerblog.com and follow Oscar Mayer at @OscarMayer and @Wienermobile. All photos courtesy of Kylie Hodges; for additional pictures, check out the No Joe Schmo Facebook page.

PLUS: Click here for more Foodie Fridays, like the co-founder of Crumbs Bake Shop, a fortune cookie writer, and a flavor developer at Cold Stone Creamery!