A Winner? Maybe...
A Champion? Not Necessarily!
Observation of a chess mom
on ultimate success
I’m a Chess Mom. For the last ten-plus years my kids have been playing some serious games. They’ve won some tournaments and titles, and lost some; but more than this, they have experienced a world which has taken them traveling beyond their wildest dreams, both geographically and personally. They’ve also learned a lot of lessons from this mind sport, which can at times become an obsession. As a mother, it is interesting to see what really goes on at tournaments, and to discover – thru observation—that winning a lot of games does not necessarily make a player a champion.
I’ve witnessed children pull off a brilliant win, but then feel too much ‘above it all’ to take the outstretched hand of an opponent, and then turn around and stomp triumphantly out of the room. I’ve witnessed chess pieces swept off a chessboard with an arrogance and capriciousness that was obviously a message for the ‘losing’ player that he wasn’t worth the respect of helping to set up the board for the next round. I’ve seen some name-calling, and, sad but true, even a fist fight. But kids aren’t only to blame. Sometimes they are just following their role models. We’ve all heard of parents who push their kids to unhealthy limits, and perhaps we’ve all been guilty ourselves a few times. I’ve sometimes seen irate mothers and fathers (and even coaches) at tourna
ments, who belittled their charges because they did not achieve the desired results. I’ve observed the tears of failure and humiliation that followed. I’ve witnessed parents, stand-ing like stone statues behind their child during an entire tournament, watching every move their child made during a match. Talk about added pressure! I’ve heard swearing and fists pounding on tables after a loss. Good sportsmanship begins on our own chessboards, and is a measure of both personal character and true success.
As a mother who has run the gamut of emotions with her kids over their triumphs as well as their defeats, it is always important to keep a clear perspective of what really matters. A ‘win’ doesn’t make them better than their opponent; a ‘rating’ is no measure of honor or integrity; and a ‘loss’ does not mean that they have failed. Rather, there is something to be learned from every win and loss, from every player you encounter, and every single situation. There is a distinction between being a ‘winner’ in a game, and a ‘champion’ in life. As parents and coaches, we have the responsibility to infuse our children with respect for others, which is a pre-requisite for self-respect. It’s not enough to just “Go for the Gold!” To be a real winner; one must also follow the Golden Rule.#
Cathi Belcher is the editor of Empire Chess, quarterly publication of the NYS Chess Assn.