Tuesday, December 19, 2023

Girls Chess

not a lot of girls here 

 I'm just back from Grade Nationals and I have some pressing thoughts about girls chess to share with you. 

The USCF should change the scoring at all regular nationals to be the top five scores, one of which must be female. Do it for two years and look at the results. I would guess that this (temporary if you like) rule change would massively increase the attention and effort paid to encouraging girls. One of the first big things I learned as a teacher is that "people do what is measured." Just measure it; let people well in advance of the rule change, and BOOM, the insolvable problem of poor female participation in chess is suddenly solved. And you will see the results for years, because most adult players are former scholastic players. 

Someone will say it isn't fair, or isn't reflective of who the strongest team really is, but lots of things in the scholastic world aren't fair. Did you know that private school students are all a year older than their public school contemporaries? That's why private schools invariably win the lower grades-- 6 year olds are infinitely more capable than 5 year olds.  In New York, we have a private school that regularly recruits public school students, but makes them all repeat 5th grade! One year, three talented triplets won the K-5 state championship two years in a row-- as fifth graders both times. But no one says anything because the private school coaches control the politics of scholastic chess. 

I love the idea of a girls room at nationals, but I have a few changes to propose. I went in there once last weekend and a very nice older man thanked me three times for coming in. Sure, buddy. But there wasn't anything that made me want to stay. 

If I was running it --

You need a fun atmosphere: string lights, Taylor Swift playing, fruit, chocolate, tea, juice, maybe inflatable yoga balls to bounce on (I have these in my classroom and kids love them-- they allow you to be childlike and physically silly in a way that's a good release from playing chess.) Chess sets and clocks should already be out and available for use. The Girls' Room should be closer to team rooms and they should do outreach to parents. It should be a comfortable, fun place to hang out. Not an empty room far away from everything with nothing in it. 

Activities: I don't think girls want to meet or play high rated female players. It's awkward and weird. They want high quality game analysis with little/no wait. Hire two female A players or experts who are experienced coaches and have them offer drop-in game analysis all day for three days. Let parents know. 

Have meetups for girls from different areas at specific times (Texas, Saturday at 4:30, NY area, Friday at 10 am, etc.)  Moms want their girls to be friends with chess playing girls in the same region. 

 I actually went in the girls room there looking for a tampon. Why are there no tampons in hotel bathrooms? They give you toilet paper and soap, and don't charge for those, but I spent an hour running around to different bathrooms and markets trying to find a tampon. I finally spent $12.99 on a pack of 10. Robbery. In NYC public schools, we recognize that girls have a right to (and need) free menstruation products. C'mon Hyatt, step up. Or the girls room could supply them. 15% of girls need them on any given day. It might at least get them in the door.