Upskilling our trainers?

JUNE 18 — During the just-concluded ASEAN+ Age-Group Chess Championships, as has been the case every year, a FIDE Trainer Seminar was organised and I was invited to be a co-lecturer with GM Thomas Luther.

I have done this type of work several times now but not recently and while I certainly cannot comment—let alone criticise—on the participants, I was reminded of the disconnect between the generally low level of trainers and their belief in their capabilities.

The fact is, as I have pointed out more than once before, most trainers are amateurs in that they at best were players with very limited success and so can teach only what they could do for themselves, or with the help of a computer and better organisational skills (plus a sweet mouth) pretend to do so.

Unless you have been a chess professional as in a player who has studied and played 24/7 and then later on in life moved on to focus the same effort on developing students, it is hard to be a real coach let alone an effective one.

One truth, unpalatable to some as it might be, is that it is the student, not the teacher — but of course if the teacher is able all the better — who can help the student progress faster. But at the same time it is a harsher truth to accept that a bad or wrong coach can slow, if not damage, a child’s prospects.  

In my blog I have expressed my surprise and disappointment (as well as disgust with the Malaysian Chess Federation — MCF) at the performances at the ASEAN+ of our best young players, some of whom are already senior players.

When I was the coach of the Malaysian women’s team at the Istanbul Olympiad in 2012, I found the girls lacked the basics of the game and their lack of systematic training showed. Even worst, they did not know how to work at the game and any tools they had were badly used.

My report post-event with recommendations made to MCF and then made public after we had arguably our best ever result there was understood by all but left unaddressed. Four years later, the evidence and way forward is still valid if we will stop pretending.

I am convinced the future is in the players known or yet to be discovered — 11 years of age and below — and while we should continue to encourage what could have been a golden generation (now around age 16), almost certainly their chance was missed. 

* This is the personal opinion of the columnist.

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