I will take up your offer and come and see your chess club and how it operates. It won’t be in the next couple of weeks due to work commitments, but I will strive to do so before Christmas.
Are the details about the club night on the website correct? Thursday night and Church Road?
Keep up the good work.
I would like to think that my home club, Bridgend, is very aggressively placed in group 4. Unlike some clubs, we welcome players of all ages, including and especially juniors, and can boast a thriving junior community. No, that's wrong. The juniors, I believe, are integrated within the whole club and feel part of our general set-up. All adults play and coach the juniors regularly. We are not an ageist club and also welcome senior players of all strengths. At present we regularly field players in our various teams in the East Glam League from approximately 12 yrs of age to 80 plus! I feel very good about my club at the moment. I think we are growing after a long period of stagnation. We are fresh, welcoming and imaginative. Just look at our crazy names for most league teams.
Commander, Bridgend Time Lords.
p.s. Why not come and visit us and see how we operate?
p.p.s Just read some of the other important things you mention about the role of adults, etc.
We are well supported by parents who drop off their children and often wait in the bar for several hours. Many of the parents have got to know each other very well and have developed their own friendships through their children's interest in chess.
Several adult players have or have had significant responsibilty working with young people, e.g. teachers, and have therefore undergone the necessary CRB checks.
Our parents are extremely supportive and value the work we do with their children. Events such as the annual Bridgend Junior Tournament have been invaluable in raising our profile in Bridgend and South Wales generally. I repeat, come and visit us on a club night and you will see a thriving social club where all are welcome and the creative talents of the young are developed.
How friendly is your chess club?
The number of chess players actively playing is in decline. I don’t want this topic thread to be hijacked by a discussion of the underlying reasons other than those that address one issue, important though that may be. But I want to focus on the question: if a ‘new’ chess player (or prospective chess player) were to come to your club, what sort of welcome would they get?
In my opinion there are 4 types of chess ‘club’.
- Those that do not have a club night, but only meet when they have a match
- Those that do have a club night but can only take in players who can already play chess.
- Those that can take in and develop new players, but because of the location of the club can only take adult players.
- Those that can take in and develop new players, including juniors.
- Ideally we’d like all clubs to be in Group 4. However, real world considerations mean that this won’t happen. From what I’ve seen the trend for clubs is to slide towards Group 1 status over time. It is this trend we need to halt and, if possible, reverse.
There are many people in Wales (both inside and outside the WCU) who are doing excellent work in spreading the word about chess. However, this work will be negated to a large degree if clubs are unable to capitalise on any interest shown by potential new blood.
To start with I’d like each zone to ensure that any expression of interest is channeled in the right direction. Each club should look and see which category it falls into, and be realistic. It’s pointless to say that a club is group 3 when there is no-one there willing to take on the role of ‘supervising’ newcomers. New members need to be looked after over a period of time, not just a couple of weeks. (To borrow a phrase you’ll be hearing a lot on TV soon – A new member is for life not just for Christmas). The zones should hold this information and be able to send new players to the most appropriate club. We’ve had anecdotal evidence where newcomers have turned up at a clubs ‘venue’ only to be told that the club are playing away and there’s no one there to look after them. The result is that we’ve lost potential players.
My own story is a case in point. I only got involved in chess through my son. Thanks to Newport Chess Club I got involved, and although I don’t play that much I do contribute to chess in other ways. If I’d gone to a Group 1 club, I may not have bothered at all.
The above does require effort on the part of club members, but the rewards are the increased likelihood that the club will continue for longer into the future. If clubs within a zone can coordinate their efforts then so much the better.
The WCU for its part will support in whatever way it can:
- we have handouts for a beginners course, borrowed from Chess Scotland;
- based on material produced by the same source we also have available a booklet on organising school chess clubs but very relevant to other chess clubs catering for newcomers;
- we have set up a fund to provide help to clubs which launch an initiative to attract juniors; we can help for example with the costs of hiring a room for an initial period or buying equipment such as additional sets or a demonstration board;
- we also have public liability insurance cover for all WCU members involved in chess activities under our auspices – many potential hirers out of accommodation insist on insurance cover these days;
- we can provide somebody experienced in the field from whom the relevant people in clubs can seek advice.
- If you are planning to be a Group 4 club then it’s recommended that key individuals who deal with juniors pre-empt the potential concerns of parents by obtaining a clearance from the Criminal Records Bureau.. This is no more intrusive than opening a bank account and can be arranged through the WCU at no cost to the individual. Note that it’s not necessary for all members of a group 4 club to be CRB cleared.
As I said earlier, chess activities within Wales are not solely the domain of the WCU. If there are people out there who are ‘going it alone’, please get in touch. I don’t want you to think that the WCU want to take things over. If we can support you then great, if you want to carry on alone then that’s up to you. You may well have ideas that might work in a wider setting – please share them with us!