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Sunday, 21 December 2014

The problem with youth coaching

We all have to start somewhere. Be it learning to play from a friend or family member or taking a liking to chess at a young age and finding a coach. Most coaches are players themselves and although they do what is best for the student ,their best might not always be the best for the student.

It might sound like I am brash in this assumption , but a simple example is that a first grade math teacher , can not give seventh grade math if they are not qualified to do so. The same goes for chess coaches. In my youth I had a coach , he had a 1400 elo , but a real passion and understanding of the game. He coached at a national level for some years. He really taught me a lot about the game , especially openings and tactics , which at that stage seemed like the best strategy as at a youth level players rarely go through a game without some early tactic or blunder. However when I hit under 12 , it seemed like all was lost. I just couldn't perform as I had in the past , result wise.

We had a talk and I got a new coach in the end. He was a sucessful business person and weekend chess player. He realised that there were serious issues with my middle game and even opening to middle game transition stages. Once again I learned new openings , with little variations , or forced variations , so once again I achieved results. I went to him for three to four years until my chess stagnated. He also couldn't coach due to personal reasons and hence I was once again in search of a coach.

I found a new coach in the form of the person who at that stage was coaching my high school team. He was a player of repute and had he had the opportunities , he would've become an IM. I still remember my first session , he said so we are going to start at the endgame and go from there. It was also the first time that I actually had to analyse my own games and had some schedule as to how we were going to fix the wide variety of issues in my play. In one year I raised my rating with 200 points , but at the same time my limited opening repetoire remained , and as the years went by , he moved to another town and hence my coaching ceased. Quite some years on , I still have issues with my game , as a result of a limited opening repetoire. So what does my personal experience have to do with the title?

Well , if I had gone to my last coach at a much younger age , he would've suggested a complete overhaul of my game , instead of temporary fixes. Yes , I would've struggled for a year or two , but in the long run , I would have been a much stronger , well rounded player than I am today. My openings are very passive and lead to drawish middle games , as opposed to the more agressive , theoretical openings which takes years to master. As I am now a recreational player , I am slowly fixing these issues , but had I known what I know now , at that time , I could've been 200-300 elo points higher in my playing abilities than I am now.

My parents do not play chess , and hence did not know how to best guide the development of a young chess player. In conclusion  , that is the issue , coaches usually deliver what they promise , but sometimes they do not take the long term effects of today's quick fix to push for a National team in my case into consideration.

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