Monday, March 25, 2013

Is there an "I" in team?

A traditional stop in Mountain Home.
"Individually we are one drop, together we are an ocean. . ."

The 2013 State Scholastic Chess Tournament was an introduction to tournament play for nearly all twenty three students from the Wood River Valley that participated.  The tournament uses the top three boards from a school as a team and we had a full high school team, a team of two 7th graders, and a full 2nd grade team.  Including team competition in addition to individuals in chess tournaments fosters a notion of being part of something larger than just yourself and provides camaraderie that I don't see when individuals enter tournaments alone or are thrown onto a team.  Some of those  individuals are observed alone with their parents, disconnected from their team, and don't flinch when paired with their peers.  Students really do show an interest in the results of other games and tend to encourage one another when truly on a team.  Where does the individual fit on a chess team? 
Bughouse at 11 pm.
The WRHS Chess Club has traditionally emphasized team play at the state scholastics with individual prizes of less import.  We have our sights on a trophy for the team so that everyone can say, "I won that."  Our team composition was a change from previous years, however.  My son was the only veteran and our players hardly new one another.  None of them "hangout" with each other, excepting Andre Murphy and Wesley Brimstein.  They rarely will play one another at our club meetings and tend to bring a friend to play with instead.  Their friends weren't interested in joining us and preferred the social atmosphere that is found at chess club.  What's more amazing is that  I taught nearly all of the high school students this school season how to play chess in either club or in the chess class that WRHS offers.

Mixed levels and multiple teams help the younger and the older kids
My interests of course are to champion each player and encourage them to play their best games, but on a more selfish note, I want to build a team ethic and provide each player with a sense of belonging to a larger organization so that they continue to play and, years down the road, reminisce and remember, "that was so much fun playing with all those guys."  Most of the kids on our team have never participated as part of a team, either.  Even more selfishly, I want to bring back a team trophy, not for me, but for the community to recognize the value of chess in the lives of students.
Bughouse is a high schooler's favorite chess variant
As a science guy, I base predictions on probabilities and most likely outcomes, but when it comes to chess, I frequently am surprised at the results.  This year I predicted that we would be third place again despite my hope for a better score.  A struggle for any chess program in public schools is to legitimize the academic nature of chess and this is no different in our valley.  Chess is as valuable as debate, basketball, art, music, or any other activites. Over the years our chess program has slowly gained ground because of my efforts to emphasize the team concept, the positive aspects of chess, and to publicize successes and results in the school and in the community.  To me, the team trophy offers more than a decoration or an evaluation of the chess program or my abilities as a coach, it represents the value of chess and to the growth of students able to collectively and collaboratively earn something that they could not do as an individual.  To be cliche, "the whole is greater than the sum of its parts."
Our team definitely demonstrated the symbiotic relationships of the team idea.  Each individual supported each other before and after the matches.  They discussed better choices, took interest in outcomes, consoled losses, and cheered for individual successes.  They also asked me how the outcome of their game would affect the team standings.
The Skittles room is a collaboration room
Anna Murphy (11th grade), Dylan Porth (7th grade), Megan Jones (12th grade)
As each round progressed I watched our team move from 5th place up to third by round 3.  In Round 4 we were in first place by 1 point ahead of Borah High School.  The fifth round would decide our fate.  Three of my players were paired with Borah students and our first trophy in three years at this event would be decided.  Wesley Brimstein, Wyatt Caccia, and Megan Jones were paired with Borah students and their outcomes would be decisive and critical to our placement.  I figured that we would need a win from Desmond and at least a draw in one of the critical games.  If Desmond lost his match, then a win and a draw from Megan, Wyatt, or Wesley would secure first place. I decided to have a pre-game discussion to review pairings and put some pressure on the players that never experienced such pressure before.  "Pay attention to your opponents school name,  the pressure is on if you are playing Borah, Boise High, or Meridian Technical."

Wyatt came off the boards first with a furled forhead and his lips taut.  "I forgot what I was doing and gave away a win!" he lamented.  "No worries,"  I said, "this tournament is hard and you have a whole year to improve your game and win next year.  We're beginners here and you can now see our potential."  Next, Wesley quietly left the tournament room with a loss.  Everyone was on edge and asking outcome possibilities.  I left for a latte.  Desmond found me and described a great game, but lost in the end to Savanna Naccarato, a GM tutored player from Sandpoint, Idaho.  How can my team compete with that kind of education?  I've only been involved in chess for the past 5 years and learn something new, myself, every tournament and nearly every game.

Megan lead WRHS with a 4.0 point tournament
The elementary kids in our group began wondering what would happen and began asking me when it would finish.  I went for another latte.  Where's Megan?  After nearly two and a half hours she sauntered over to our bughouse table with a shell-shocked expression.  She had played the longest game of her life so far and flatly said, "I won."  Her mind was visibly a-buzz with many thoughts, including the fact that she earned 4.0 points, lead our team as the top board, and probably won first place for 12th grade.  Megan was going to be my student aide during 7th period and I convinced her to earn a elective credit by taking chess during that time instead.  "But, I don't know anything about chess?" she indicated before changing her schedule last fall.  She won 1st place 12th grade and we won second place with 9.0 points behind Borah High School (10.0 pts.) and narrowly beat Boise High School and Merridian Technical Charter school.  More stories about State Scholastics forthcoming.

Megan Jones 1st place 12th grade and Desmond Porth 2nd place 10th grade.
 Chess Team ideas:
  • have a team jersey.
  • have players teach to other players.
  • have players analyze and go over games with other players.
  • decrease player dependence on the coach.
  • have players take about each round and strategize next round.
  • have players consider possible outcomes.
  • keep the mystery of the results and players on the edge of their seats.
  • have all players help with equipment.
  • have all players cleanup the area.
  • have all players help the Td's cleanup the venue afterwards.
  • have older players help younger players.
  • lot's of group photos and try to get photos with kids not normally together.
  • ask specific players to encourage others in need of help.
  • ask players to go see their team mates boards or to estimate who's ahead.
  • ask players to talk to their team mates about particular opponent's.
  • indicate the importance of each player's game whether they are the top boards or not.
The individuals do matter in chess matches that have team competition.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Blog Archive