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Junior Chess Organiser- can anyone do it?

Well yes - and no. I would suggest you need to be interested in chess, but you don't need to be an expert. You need to be interested in kids and enjoy working with them, and you need to know why you are doing it.

This sort of thing makes you feel very proud, because you know you are giving them opportunities to do and achieve things that no-one else is giving them.
These are youngsters from Leeds Junior Chess Club who competed at the mega final recently.

How did I get involved?

I took my daughter to a competition when she was about 7. It was shambolically organised, but strangely attractive. She enjoyed it, although didn't do that well. I enquired as to how she could get more involved, but was surprised by the lack of clear guidance. It took some penetrating into the weird world of junior chess before I realised there was little coherent activity across the country. Basically you had to get to know the right people and work out which were the competitions to go for.

After a while, I realised there was nothing to stop me organising stuff myself. I particularly started to do competitions for girls as they were so outnumbered (10:1).

I also started running a school team and encouraged all the kids in the school to get involved. Soon there were massive rewards. Trophies, medals, trips all round the country - massive boosts to self esteem and great PR for the school. My daughter started to amass a collection of trophies, medals and even some cash, and various titles came her way, bits in the local press.

Why did I stay involved?

Here I am - still organising. I started a junior chess club some years ago as there was nowhere for kids in Leeds to go once they left primary. I started a Yorkshire Grand Prix because there was no coherent competition in this massive county, and we were always losing to Surrey and the south. I carried on because there was a need, even though my daughter long since stopped being a junior. What has astonished me is how few people are prepared to actually do anything like this, and I can't understand why. Perhaps they don't like other people's children much? Perhaps they feel they can't. Or perhaps they are too busy with careers, or feel they actually don't have the expertise.

I have learnt as I have gone along, and been lucky I have had one or two (but not many) people who have helped me. I can't coach youngsters when they get better than me so I have been lucky I have had an expert coach, and I can't run competitions on my own so I have been lucky I have had a small but willing group who help.

However, I wont be around forever. If I am not around what will happen to competition in Yorkshire? What will happen to the junior chess club? We really need more people to get involved. If you have a chess playing youngster you will know how rewarding this game can be. It teaches you much, as I will expound in future blogs. You do need to develop a bit of resilience, as some parents can be unkind and are very precious about their kids. But generally people are grateful and polite, so I would urge anyone who is not sure - just offer to help out for a day and see how quickly it can be learnt.

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