When others continue to decry the negative effect of the novel coronavirus pandemic on local sport, one club is turning the negatives into positives.
In what looks like a blessing in disguise, the Francistown school of Chess says it utilized the covid19 pandemic induced lockdown as an opportunity to better their players. While other sporting codes closed shop, the academy says it organised online tournaments as a way to keep members engaged and growing during the time.
The school’s co-founder and coach, Jeremiah Dikgang says their mission is to continue redefining chess development in the country. “Where others saw this as a time to feel sorry for themselves during Covid19 pandemic and lockdown, we used it as an opportunity to explore our player’s talents and harness their skills,” Dikgang says.
While admitting it was not easy, he however says they did not give up on their beliefs in the kids and the academy. Dikgang adds that despite losing business during the period, that did not stop them from pushing against the odds.
“In our academy, we work with kids and their parents pay to bring them here. That is how we generate income,” he explains. “During this pandemic, most of the kids could not continue with the sessions, meaning they stopped playing and this proved more of a challenge for us,” he says.
While this may have stopped some from continuing with their programs, the Francistown chess academy established online platforms to conduct training sessions for its members. This however came with its own challenges as not all children have access to the internet, meaning only a few could be reached through the online platform during the pandemic.
“We however managed to get more kids to take online lessons as parents could see the importance of online tuition during this pandemic, which helped us to grow,” says Dikgang.
He further adds that the online platform grew bigger than expected. “We started playing and participating more on online tournaments,” he says.
“It helped us to give our players more exposure and experience. We also established new connections and market ourselves with people outside our borders.”
Dikgang says this has proved beneficial for the development of our kids and for the academy, which he says ‘remains attractive to many people both locally and internationally.’
“We have one Spanish group called ExpoChess, which during Covid19, managed to invite us to participate in their weekly online tournament which was made up of nine clubs,” he explains.
He says this worked wonders for them as ‘those clubs are made up of very strong players.’ “We took part in three tournaments and we did relatively well,” he opines.
“First tournament was very tough and we finished in position eight. The second time we got position six whilst the last tournament which we had last week we finished in positions three,” he explains.
“This testifies to the determination, hard work and perseverance our players possess. They used the pandemic period to get more lessons, improve their skills and represent the academy well,” Dikgang notes.
He further adds that during the same period they ‘participated and won a tournament against three South African academies.’
Beyond the pandemic, Dikgang says they seek to ‘hold talks with the Spanish group to see how we can take our relationship to the next level.’
“We seek to explore better avenues that we can venture into for the benefit of both the kids and the academy whose interests we hold dearly at heart,” he says.
He says they are in talks to establish exchange programs with such academies and clubs which will help them to grow as academies.
“Covid19 has helped us to move a lot of our attention to the digital world than we ever did. It opened our eyes to online activities, networking with best academies and clubs, interact with international players as well as give our players exposure,” Dikgang says.
“Covid19 had its own advantages and disadvantages. But there are also a lot of good things that came out of it. we are coming out of it a lot better than we were. It was a learning curve for the academy and we cannot say it is all doom,” he concludes.