Dear Administrator, Teacher, or Coach:
This guide was created to help teachers and scholastic chess organizers who wish to begin, improve, or strengthen their school chess program. It covers how to organize a school chess club, run tournaments, keep interest high, and generate parental and public support. – Dewain R. Barber
Getting Ready to Start a Chess Club
Reporters know that their stories have to answer the basic questions — who? what? when? where? why? and how? These are the right questions for other projects too — including school chess clubs.
You are probably not alone in your hopes — you have a number of students who are behind your desire to have a successful school club. It’s time to decide what other students you want to attract, because many of your future plans will be based on this decision. Consider involving youngsters at your school who are in special programs — people with learning, developmental, or physical challenges, as well as the gifted. Personal growth has no limit. Your school administration will be pleased to see these youngsters taking an active role in your school sponsored activity.
As noted in “Chess Clubs and Chess Players” (see page 1), the school chess club is both an educational and social activity. It provides those who know how to play and those interested in learning the game a place to meet, play, learn, teach, and develop friendships. However, a club should not be a place to “hang out,” “kill time,” or avoid academic work. The chess club at a school can and should be fun, but it is a learning experience above all else.
Your students will help you bring in others and assist you in deciding what kinds of activities you should have, but it will be
useful for you to have a plan for the first several meetings. Also, set goals with your students; decide what you and the players wish to accomplish by the end of the school year. Before announcing the get-acquainted organizational meeting in the student bulletin and posted fliers, plan a specific agenda. Don’t forget to play some chess too! Most students attracted to chess have a need for structure and rules. Experiment with various activities to determine what is successful in your club.
When and How Often?
The answer(s) to this apparently simple question can have a major effect on the success of your school club. Some school clubs have the question answered by outside forces, such as classroom or library availability. If early busses are available, your club may be able to meet before school. Otherwise, after school may be better, though some students have after- school jobs or chores and may not be able to attend in the afternoon. Keep in mind the other activities of your potential members, as well as the school bus schedule, when planning your meeting time.
You might be surprised to learn that lunch period is a good time for a meeting. The administration will appreciate seeing students using their lunch period in a supervised, productive manner. And because students can bring a sack lunch with them, they can have more time to play. In any case, you probably want to allow at least 30 minutes at lunch for a club session, or up to one hour after school. Meet at least once a week (or daily if your schedule permits).
Find a room with chairs and tables. Your classroom may be big enough for your first organizational meeting and may become the club’s permanent meeting place. If the room is not suitable, see if the library is available at the time your club meets. For example, the library may be busy with other students during lunch, so check things out. Keep storage needs in mind as you scout for a site at the school. You’ll need a place to keep equipment, tournament stationery, club records, and so forth. A secure closet or the possibility of a locked cabinet is a definite advantage.
One of your reasons for starting a chess club is to have a place for students to play chess or to create an alternative to the existing activities at school. In addition, you recognize the educational value (critical and abstract thinking, planning, logic, and analysis) that comes from chess. Your students will improve their ability to
concentrate, and you can teach the values of good sportsmanship. Studies have also shown that chess can help kids improve their school grades. Whatever other reason there may be for a club, the excitement in the eyes of your students when they win their first game or team match may be reason enough.
Most of the rest of this book is devoted to how to do things in a chess club. The best way to describe the non-technical side of “how” is “friendly.” Treat your club members as you would guests in your home. Greet them; introduce them around; make sure they feel that this is their club too. One concrete way to get off to a good start with a newcomer is to make sure you have some extra sets and boards handy. That way, no visitor will be disappointed. Almost any set will do, but consider standardizing as soon as possible. Other very important parts of “how” are club structure and funding. These areas are so important that they are treated in separate sections elsewhere in this publication. You’re now ready to get started with your club. It may require a bit of work, but it will be well worth the effort!
- Download the complete Guide To Scholastic Chess (PDF)
A Beginner’s Guide To Coaching Scholastic Chess by Ralph E. Bowman
Copyright © 2006
I have had many beginning coaches/parents approach me with questions about coaching this wonderful game. What is contained in this book is a compilation of the answers to those questions.
This book is designed with three types of persons in mind:
- a teacher who has been asked to sponsor a Chess team,
- parents who want to start a team at the school for their child and his/her friends, and
- a Chess player who wants to help a local school but has no experience in either Scholastic Chess or working with schools. Much of the book is composed of handouts I have given to students and coaches over the years.