Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Conversations With A Chess Parent

Last Saturday, during the NSW Open, I was talking to a parent about her junior's commitments to chess. I have to say I was left completely gobsmacked. Some juniors these days, it seems, are almost like little professionals; it's chess week in, week out. In about a month, the kid will leave for OS to compete in some junior tournament. During this time he'll also have missed some school work. Apparently, it took a little negotiating with the school principal before he finally gave the nod for the kid to take time off school.

There will be no special favours either. When our junior, one of the most talented up and comers in NSW, returns he'll face an exam on topics that he wouldn't have had already covered! After all, it's not as if these guys can play chess during the day and then study at night. Hard life!

So I was thinking, in the middle of this conversation, how do you guys manage it? All those sacrifices - financial, time, school and all that expended energy! Like I said, hard life.

14 comments:

Anonymous said...

I think it is harder on the parents than the kids. Yes the school work gets stressful.

Both Shannon and Gareth took time off in year 11 and 12 to go to the world youth - one year Shannon came home from overseas 3 days before her final exams and was still a bit jetlagged when doing them.

I think kids are very resilient and have a passion for chess (and the overseas tournaments are so much fun).

Not all the juniors actually play as much as the one you mention - most of them balance things a bit more, but I think chess is an over riding passion for him.

I feel a lot more sorry for the parents - it is our money that gets soaked up in what seems the bottomless chess pit. We have to negotiate time off work and businesses and catch up all the work either before we go or when we come back. We also have all the angst of worrying about whether we are doing the right thing in letting them take the time off school, or whether we are destroying their future lives.

I think there is a perception that parents are harridans pushing their children and living through them. Of course you do get these, especially with the littlies. However by the time the kids get to 12+ it is always them driving it and parents trying to restrain them and create a more balanced life (and trying to keep their finances afloat). :)


Jenni

Anonymous said...

I don't think this kid will get Maxed out!

Brian

DeNovoMeme said...

Here are three (plus one) golden rules for parents:

1. If the kid has to train *more* than about two hours a week at [insert any sport] in order to be in the running for a win, they are never going to be any good at it. They will be better off playing for the fun of it like normal kids.

2. If the kid is playing [insert any sport] *because* their friend/parent/sibling/teacher plays(ed) it, it is highly likely that they will not be any good at it. They will be better off playing for the fun of it like normal kids.

3. If the kid is not *pestering* you to help transport/coach/fund/take-up [insert any sport] they will give it up at 12, 16 or 18 years of age. They will be better off playing for the fun of it like normal kids.

4. Only push kids to be proficient at the basics of the important things - the 3Rs, manners, kindness. Never push kids in what should be plain ordinary old fun.

chris said...

"If the kid has to train more than 2 hours a week"...Denovomeme.

Are you serious?
2 hours a week is NOTHING,you need to be doing at least 5 hours a week to have any chance of being successful in australian junior chess. The overall strength of juniors has risen considerably in the last 5 years with coaching.

The average australian child watches more than 3 hours of television a day.

If a kid wants to do 2 hours of chess study a day because they are keen then I say good on them.
There is nothing wrong with being committed and determined. If you compare successful juniors that are doing swimming,soccer,football,tennis,etc...they do at least 2 hours a day training. And I'm not talikng about kids who are worldbeaters here,those kids are doing 4 hours a day.

In regards to kids missing school because of big competitions,chess kids miss very little time compared to kids who are swimming or doing track and field.

Anonymous said...

DeNovoMeme seems to be overly impressed by the idea of being 'a natural’. Talent’s important but no strong player at chess or any other sport ever gets there by talent alone – it’s the hard work that makes the difference. When you’re passionate about something as a kid, the fact is you love working at it and you want to improve. So two hours a week study would be nothing for a kid who loved it and was talented.

DeNovoMeme said...

Anon A Says :
"Are you serious?
2 hours a week is NOTHING"

DNM: Yes, I am quite serious. Unfortunity when I tapped that out it was a truncated "golden rule."

Winning could be of anything from beating your big brother to a world title. I was/am talking about being a local or club champion. These levels are all that is required for an enormously positive experience. Above that there is the law of diminishing returns for effort. If playing footy, chess, tenis, takes you *more* than a few hours a week to win at that level, you are a normal ordinary kid. And there is nothing wrong with that! If you are winning with 2 hours a week, you have an aptitude for it and you might consider upping it to an hour a day. If that does *not* get you to being an outside chance at a state level, then, you simply ain't got what it takes to go to become the elite.

It is cruel and irresponsible to facilitate or encourage kids to train their hearts out for more than about 10 hours a week on anything, unless they are a likely place getter at a state level. Just because some other obsessed overachiever wants to set the bar at performances only possible 20+ hrs/w trainingh schedule, does not make it morally right to preside over your own kids doing the same.

As for the training required to win at XYZ, I agree with you that it is becoming harder in every sport, year by year. But just like materialism and keeping up with the Jones' , it is a choice we make to persue or not. In the same way (most) parents do not want their kids to worship money, you ought not want them hooked on winning either. Both are detremental to mental health and happiness.

Anon B SAYS " When you’re passionate about something as a kid, the fact is you love working at it and you want to improve. So two hours a week study would be nothing for a kid who loved it and was talented."

DNM: I agree entirely. The only thing to do there, is to ensure that the "passion" does not become an "obsession" and that other more important facets of growing up are not unduely neglected.

Anon B says: "it’s the hard work that makes the difference."

DNM: true, but only when the genetics and opertunities are the same. And even then, the propensity for "hard work" is genetically determined.

chris said...

Denovomeme,would you rather kids watched 20 hrs a week of telly or studied 10 hours a week on chess?

At least with chess they are learning critical thinking and decision making.

You talk about passion versus obsession,which do you think children are when they spend 20 hours a week watching tv?

DeNovoMeme said...

Chris,
The two alternative you give (10hrs chess V 20hrs TV) is silly. It is like asking should you be addicted to crack or smack. How about comparing similar uses of time:
10 hours chess Vs 10 hours of tenis or
cooking
car restoration
piano
debating
model plane building
netball
meals on wheels
writing a book.

All of these are good for a normally growing-up kid- until you do it for half the day every day. There is something called "oppertunity cost." When you spend time on X you cannot spend that time on Y.

If a kid does 10 hours a week on X and are *not* doing well at state level, they are not the real deal. They are infact normal and therefore ordinary at it. You should hope that they are training for fun and not to be The Champ.

OK. Let me be quite clear here. I think chess is a great sport for kids and it will greatly improve their ability to concentrate and focus on whatever job they have in front of them. It will help them learn about themselves as a person. It is fun as well. I am pro for chess. I am only saying that you cannot make a silk purse from a sow's ear, so don't try. Kids should try a wide variety of experiences and folow what they have an aptitude for - not what others hope they have an aptitude for.

BTW 20 hrs of TV is probably neurotoxic. ;-)

Anonymous said...

DeNovoMeme

There is no such thing as Natural Talent. All skills have to cultivated. Certain things might come easier to particular children but still need to be worked on and perfected.

No one can get to a high level in chess if they only put in 2 hours of work per week. (When i mean high level I am referring to GM)

I thought MR DeNovoMeme would know this...isnt he a meant to be a coach!

DeNovoMeme said...

A3:There is no such thing as Natural Talent.

DNM: I never used the term "a natural." I said "aptitude." If you think there is no such thing, you must not have a wide experience in pedogogy.

A3: All skills have to cultivated.

DNM: Yes, I agree.

A3: Certain things might come easier to particular children but still need to be worked on and perfected.

DNM: You only *need* to work on the important skills that a kid must have - 3Rs for example. Playing chess per se is not one of them. Nevertheless, I would agree with you if you are saying that coaching is necessary to progress to elite levels of any sport.

A3: No one can get to a high level in chess if they only put in 2 hours of work per week. (When i mean high level I am referring to GM)

DNM: I agree entirely, GM level may take 30 to 60 hours a week - even then only a very few have been born with an aptutide for such strong performances in any sport.

A3: I thought MR DeNovoMeme would know this...isnt he a meant to be a coach!

DNM: And I am bloody good at what I do. I do not have the knowledge base in chess to coach to elite levels and nor do I pretend to. However, there are universal principles of coaching/teaching/training in which I am expert.

In case you want to increase your understanding of what is possible in coaching, try reading what these gents have to say.
http://www.psy.fsu.edu/faculty/ericsson.dp.html
http://www.gnxp.com/blog/2006/07/10-questions-for-steven-pinker.php

Pax said...

If they have any passion at all for [insert sport here], they will spend way more than 2 hours a week - just because they love it.

My neighbour's 7 year old girl does swimming squad training three times a week. Her parents are not even slightly pushy about it. She only does it because she loves it - you should see the beaming smile on her face if she has won a race, or even just when she is going training.

DeNovoMeme said...

Pax: f they have any passion at all for [insert sport here], they will spend way more than 2 hours a week - just because they love it.

DNM: I agree entirely.

However, my point is that you do not *need* to do more than that to be competitive at club level. If at a few hours a week you are at state level, then you have an aptitude for it. If you are not at state level, then you are normal/ordinary/average. And there is nothing wrong with that. Keep training and loving it and playing it - no problem. Just do not expect to be a national champion *purely* by hard work.

chris said...

No one is saying the kids should be aspiring to be "national champions". Every child will have a different level of interest in chess,most just want to be at least 1400 strength. Some however will want to be 2000+.

And I can honestly see nothing wrong with kids who want to do the study to be 2000+. Because you WILL NEED to do the study to get to 2000+.

I have seen and met at least half a dozen kids who are over 1800 strength by the time they are 13,and none of those kids are being "forced" to study chess for long hours to be strong chess players.

When I compare those kids with kids who are playing football,soccer,tennis or doing ballet I see kids who are pressured to be very successful at a young age.

This might be because parents dont see chess as a path to glory and riches,where as other child activities can give some parents other ideas.

Anonymous said...

Its hilarious when you see players such as sweeney trying to give advice on how many hours a week a child should practice chess for to become good. He cant even put any of your 'useful advice' into practice considering his rating is 1200!

Maybe you should LISTEN to others and learn how to improve who have the experience and know how. Who knows one day you might reach 1400 :)