Friday, September 22, 2023

Chess coach advises on how sports can influence academic excellence 

Chess coach and co-founder of Francistown School of Chess Jeremiah Dikgang has advised on how sports can be used to influence academic performance of athletes.

He said sports on its own does not influence academic excellence but the people presiding over sport should be able to coin it such that it does. 

“Sports on its own is an activity that engages the physical, emotional, psychological and mental aspect of an athlete. It is very posible to use sport to bring about academic excellence since traits like critical thinking, creativity, time management, thinking outside the box and awareness are what make up an elite athlete.”

He added that the most important part is not about sports being a catalyst to improve academic excellence but the deliberate action that a trainer takes to use it. 

Dikgang further noted that all this does not just happen, adding that it has to be systematically coined to achieve that.

“The reason why it is not happening that much is because the people involved may not have an idea how to do it or they may be lazy to develop a program that will achieve all this,” he said.

“The activity on its own requires some work, planning, creativity and innovation which many of our people presiding over sports development are not ready to engage into. A deliberate strategy to use sports as a tool to bring about acedemic excellence if brought on board will be a game changer for the country,” opined Dikgang.

Moreover, Dikgang noted that the primary foundation of excellence in any endeavour is discipline.

He said “how is discipline taught to athletes? In simple terms we may take discipline as just mere good conduct but it is more than that by a mile and a half. Discipline covers time management, following any given routine to the letter, following instruction, doing any assignment maybe as a soccer player as given, focusing on the task at hand and working on it until completion etc.”

“If a player can learn that from his or her own sporting code, they are obliged demonstrate discipline in other areas of life acedemics included, they will go far in life. The question is, how deliberate are we to ensure we devep and nature that ability through our sporting codes and how do we ensure that players are made aware of the development of such a trait,” noted Dikgang rhetorically.

Furthermore, Dikgang added that sports is amazing and can be a great tool to be used to bring about positive development as well well as great academic performance.

“During preparation and competitions, players demonstrate a lot of resilience, they lose, come back to fight to better their results. That ability to come back after a set back is key to academic excellence and even in entrepreneurship.”

“You find that athletes only demonstrate resilience only at their respective sporting codes and never realize they can use it during an academic journey that has its own emotional rollercoasters. If I can give you an example of chess, a player may move from a completely winning position to losing, then have to pick him or herself up to approach another one,” added Dikgang.

He further noted that those excitements and heart breaks are part and puzzle of both chess and academics. He said “There is need for awareness to kids to see the connection. 

During competitions in every sporting codes coaches talk about strategic thinking to bring about positive results, creativity, confidence etc, all this can awesomely help a child in academics.”

“Research has proven that these skills i have mentioned (creativity, innovation, critical thinking, problem solving, thinking outside the box, resilience etc) are not developed in class but outside at the playing ground. The Finland Education system has amazingly overtaken all countries as far as quality is concerned and when asked the minister of Education stood and said we allow children to play, we do not keep them long in class,” added Dikgang. 

He also opined that the reason they want them out there playing is the realisation that key cognitive skills are developed and nurtured during playing. He said “it will be a game changing move if we could try and use sport as a tool to enhance cognitive development of our athletes especially that we are stepping in to the 4th industrial revolution. The world is becoming more complex and ambiguous of which those who survive will be a generation that will demonstrate a high level of cognitive competence.”

“It is ironic how developed countries have been informed by research to use sport as a tool to realise that dream. I must say i was startled how a certain woman in South Africa called Marisa Van Der Merwe, a former chess coach has developed a program called MiniChess that is currently transforming education not only in South Africa but the entire world. The progam is not about playing chess but chess being used as a tool to develop thinking, creativity, innovation and resilience of young kids. Having had an interaction with it I just wish we can adopt such initiatives in Botswana,” added Dikgang.

Dikgang noted that sport is a fantastic tool if used strategically with proper planning will bear fruit for academics too.


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