by Sudhakar Kudva
It is a familiar story. You hear from a friend or a relative that chess is a great activity for building critical thinking, concentration, spatial visualization, sportsmanship etc. You know a little about chess, you have a Russian uncle living in New York who speaks volumes about how many kids play chess in schools there. Then you look around your community and your school, look in the yellow pages, and nothing turns up about chess. You check the school district and none of the schools have a club. You go to the teachers of your local school and talk to the Principal about chess instruction in class, and you get blank stares. Frustrated, you almost give up.
But wait! You don’t have to give up! For one thing, dozens if not more started out the same way as you did in this great state of Oregon. Your child deserves chess instruction, whether s/he is destined to be the next world champion, or someone who just enjoys playing it for fun. But first, you have to take a deep breath, and meet a really important chess personality…. You!
But I know nothing about chess except how the rooks move, you say. No sweat. I don’t know anyone in school administration, you say. Doesn’t matter. I know nothing about where to get the equipment? Not a problem.
First, you need to decide that YOU are the person who are going to drive this. Bring this up with your jogging club, aerobics classmates, work colleagues who live in the community, whoever. Get a couple of allies in your school volunteer pool who get excited about the idea. Then follow the following easy steps:
- Find a sponsor in your school. It can be the principal, a teacher, gym coach, the librarian, whoever. A sponsor helps you find space for kids to meet and play on a regular basis. Be flexible and work out a schedule for kids to meet and play.
- Once you have a schedule, typically once a week, then you need to publicize your club. If your school has a weekly or monthly newsletter, it is a perfect place to advertise your club. Most parents want their kids to be exposed to activities like chess, but are not likely to find out until they read the newsletter.
- Make a small down payment in the club. Buy some inexpensive sets from the local department store. It is preferable to upgrade later to reasonably priced tournament sets later on, but it depends on the interest in your club. You can assess a small supply fee to join the club to recover your costs. Most clubs I know do this.
- Divide up the club time into two parts. Set aside one part for instruction, one part for free play. Instruction could be one on one, or more classroom style, but if kids are not learning concepts, they will not improve. The other part is for play. As much as possible, have kids apply the concepts they picked up in the class.
- Now comes the challenging part. What do you do with the kids when they show up? Someone needs to teach them the rules, the moves etc. This is where technology comes in handy. There are several kid friendly, school district approved teaching web sites on the Internet which allow you to download free instructional material (chesskids.com is one of them – see links in the “Software and Online Play” section of “Member Recommended Resources” tab on this website). If you are reading this article, you already have the skills to go to the website, browse it and see what you like. You can download lessons, quizzes, or if your school allows you, have kids play directly on school computers using the on-line instruction. You pick the pace at which kids learn. Don’t be surprised if kids learn the stuff faster than you can grasp it. The kids’ brain is much more suitable for picking up chess concepts than the adult brain. It is important to go at the kids’ pace – especially if they are learning on line.
- Take kids to tournaments once in a while so they get exposed to other kids playing chess. Kids learn by watching others play, especially the better ones. They also build friendships with others who play chess. Some of these last a lifetime.
- Hold a party at the end of each season to recognize everyone’s participation. It could be just giving out ribbons or certificates and talking about each person’s accomplishment, or do it soccer style with trophies, videos, pizza parties, whatever. Just as long as the kids feel like they are part of something important. Then they are likely to come back next year.
Do you have an experience you would like to share? Tips you want to give to others? Please join OSCF and add your comment to this article.