The Open File
by Life Master Mike Petersen (Zug)
Beginners and Clubs
You can always tell the beginners. They won't be the ones chatting with anyone in the club. They won't be the ones sitting down banging away at speed chess, or even playing a skittles game. They won't be the ones offering any light-hearted kibitzing over any of the games or analysis. No, they won't be any of these people. They'll be the ones sort of "wandering" around in the club. They might have their hands behind their backs, as if to touch anything would be the worst of taboos. They might be standing and staring at the club bulletin board, as if they would discover the secret of the universe in its months-old notices. They will be the ones staring in awe at a game of speed chess between two low-rated players. They will be the ones to gaze hopefully into the face of anyone who comes near, hoping against hope for an invitation to play a game. And finally, they will sadly wander over to the exit and slowly slink out, never to be seen again.
Has this ever happened at your club? I know it's happened at mine - too many times. We all complain about the lack of memberships in our clubs, but very few clubs have in place an effective method of dealing with the neophytes and visitors to the club. The high rated players ignore them, hoping they will not ask for a game. The low rated players don't notice the new players at all. They're either too busy playing blitz or trying to get help or analysis from the high rated players. All are equally guilty. What can we do?
Well, first, talk about it at your next club meeting. Devise a method of greeting visitors and neophytes that will make them feel welcome. Form a committee to establish the existence of a "greeter" whose job is to do just that. Rotate the greeting responsibilities among ALL members, so that a few don't have to do the work of the many. Make it a requirement of membership that once every couple of months the member will be the official greeter for visitors and beginners. Make sure there is a notice on the bulletin board advising all new members and visitors of the activities of the club and what rights they do and do not have as visitors. Date this notice and keep it current. You might even have a notice concerning "Advice for Beginning Players." Included in it could be a short list of recommended books, how much a good chess set, board and clock would cost, how to enter a tournament and how much that would generally cost. This advice list could go on, but you get the idea. Many questions beginners have could be answered by just such a notice. Don't know what to include? Ask a new member! They'll be able to tick off a dozen or more areas. Count on it.
The point is that beginners, visitors, and new members are valuable. Many times they are "scouting" for some friends who are also interested in the club, but couldn't come down that evening. A little advanced planning and thoughtfulness can bring big dividends. Treating these people right sells your club. Treating them shabbily sells your club out.
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