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Scholastic Chess Club Plan

 

Chess Club Plans Do Vary

This is how one organizer went about forming a new scholastic chess club that meets in an upper elementary school (grades 5 and 6). This plan was fine tuned following the first and second years. Granted, there's a lot of detail here and you may choose to use the contents links to simply focus on where you are in the process or refer back to specific items. With this tool, you'll be able to go through the process much more smoothly and quickly than I did, and be glad you did. If you're a school faculty person wanting to start a club, some of the early steps may already be virtually complete.

It's best to begin the process of forming a new chess club about a month before school begins. However, it can be accomplished any time during the first half of the school year.

Meeting in a school carries along certain requirements that may not apply for another location. Your situation may be different in this and other respects, requiring some modification to the plan. For example, a K-4 program may have less emphasis on tournament preparation under similar conditions. Conversely, high school clubs may require less supervisory structure with members as club officers conducting the meetings for themselves. The important thing is to have a well thought out plan for the formation of the new club, so that your effort goes smoothly and is more likely to succeed. If you have a different plan for a different situation to submit for others to access on this web site, please contact the Mike Swatek.

A Plan for a New Scholastic Chess Club At School
Updated 25 September 2004

Contents:

  1. Founding Organizer Responsibilities in this important and rewarding role.

  2. Order a USCF Scholastic chess club affiliate information packet.

  3. Get administrative approval from the principal to organize a scholastic chess club that will meet at school.

  4. Recruit a Faculty Sponsor for the club.

  5. Identify Faculty Finance Manager, per school district policy for student clubs, and who to make checks out to.

  6. Recruit Financial Sponsorship for the club.

  7. Prepare a detailed budget and determine the appropriate annual dues.

  8. Establish the club meeting day, time and location with the Faculty Sponsor.

  9. Choose the club first meeting date and plan chess club recruiting sessions.

  10. Prepare membership form and promotional materials for recruiting sessions

  11. Conduct the club recruiting sessions

  12. Other recruiting opportunities.

  13. Order the items that are necessary for your first meeting.

  14. Prepare club information to hand out at first meeting

  15. Prepare other club related fliers

  16. Prepare for and conduct your first meeting per a plan and materials list.

  17. First meeting follow-up items

  18. Conduct the second meeting, per a plan and materials list.

  19. Conduct additional meetings per a plan and have fun.

  20. Year End Party

  1. Founding Organizer Responsibilities in this important and rewarding role.
    - The Founding Organizer will prepare the plan for the chess club formation and facilitate the activities necessary to successfully launch the club.
     
    - The Organizer, or their representative knowledgeable of the club operation, will be present and prepared for all chess club meetings.
     
    - To help assure continuity of the club, the Organizer will recruit new volunteers every year to become Organizers in the following year. These shall include some parents of the younger members.

  2. Order a USCF Scholastic chess club affiliate information packet.
    Simply request one from USCF Club Development 845-562-8350, ext. 128. This includes a hard copy of A Guide to Scholastic Chess, the USCF Catalog, plus several other very helpful publications. In the packet you'll receive information about several U.S. Chess Trust programs, including Chess for Youth. Chess for Youth is a program that donates up to 5 free chess sets to qualifying schools around the county. It is also known as “Kolty Chess for Youth,” named for its famous founder, George Koltanowski.

  3. Get administrative approval from the principal to organize a scholastic chess club that will meet at school. 
    - Share your current plan and some literature about the benefits of chess. (Including this item as the start of your plan is a good start.)
     
    - Share the role and responsibilities of the Organizer.
     
    - Initiate the next two steps in the plan during the meeting with the administration when approval is granted.

  4. Recruit a Faculty Sponsor for the club. 
    - Ask the Principal to solicit for volunteers when getting approval for the club. 
     
    - Leave with the principal copies of your current plan, list of Faculty Sponsor responsibilities and some literature about the benefits of chess to share with anyone expressing an interest. Encourage anyone interested to contact you for more information and leave copies of your contact information. Be sure to leave the meeting day, time and room open at this point, for your Faculty Sponsor to help determine, based on their schedule.
     
    - Follow up with an email to the Principal thanking them for their support of the proposed chess club and help recruiting a Faculty Sponsor. Include attachments of the plan, your list of Faculty Sponsor responsibilities and a link to the page about the benefits of chess at www.okschess.org/starting/benefits . The principal can then easily forward the information to all his staff for consideration.
     
    - Contact the Principal weekly to follow up about the search for a Faculty Sponsor.
     
    - Be aware that in some schools the teachers may usually receive a stipend for sponsoring such activities. If the search for a sponsor seems to be languishing, ask if a stipend from the club may be necessary and how little may be sufficient. Any stipend will have to be calculated into your budget for an unknown number of members. If you don't have a financial sponsor for the club, try to propose the stipend on a per member basis.

  5. Identify Faculty Finance Manager, per school district policy for student clubs, and who to make checks out to.
    - Ask the Principal to identify this person when getting approval for the club. 
     
    - You'll need the Faculty Finance Manager in place when you receive the first club funds. this is often the school secretary.
     
    - Find out from them who checks should be made out to and include this on your Membership Form. Also, make sure the Financial Sponsor is advised of this.
     
    - They will receive and disperse all club funds. Fund disbursement must be requested by the Faculty Sponsor or Chess Club Organizer. 
     
    - The Finance Manager will review club membership scholarship candidates and free USCF membership requests for sufficient need. 
     
    - They will submit the Letter to USCF regarding Free USCF Scholastic Memberships from the Chess for Youth Program(sample letter in MS Word format with information at quotes to be edited). With the letter, also submit the Chess-for-Youth Application Form. Check out the US Chess Trust's "Chess for Youth" Free USCF Membership Programfor up to 10 students in the Federal School Lunch Program. For more info about this program, also click HERE
    . Email admin@okschess.org for additional contact info for this program to help expedite things.

  6. Recruit Financial Sponsorship for the club.
    - This can be an individual, service club (Rotary, Lions, Elks, ect.), company and/or school related organization (PTO, foundation, boosters, etc.). 
     
    - It's also recommended that you recruit a company to provide copies for your meetings. Your going to be needing a lot of material copied for recruiting and the club meetings, which you don't want to consume your budget.
     
    - You'll need a minimum of $300. More funds will allow you to do more. If you can raise $1200 or more in financial support for a club of about 50 members, you'll be in good shape. Refer to the budget page for what the money can be used for. You can do this at the same time the faculty Sponsor is being recruited.
     
    - For those kids that are in a financial hardship situation, sponsorship to cover their membership and possibly even some other incidental costs is a wonderful thing to arrange. The Faculty Sponsor and school administrator handling the funds will need to be notified of any such opportunity for hardship cases they may become aware of.

  7. Prepare a detailed budget and determine the appropriate annual dues.
    - The appropriate annual dues can vary considerably, depending upon what's built-in, any Faculty Sponsor stipend and the level of Financial Sponsorship that has been recruited.
     
    - Try to not have the membership fee be prohibitive for too many potential members. Some recommend that the built-ins be limited and the members be given the opportunity to expand their involvement (Training workbooks, USCF membership, club shirts, interscholastic tournament fees, advanced training, etc.). 
     
    - To evaluate your proposed fee, compare it with the necessary cost associated with other co-curricular activities with broad student participation at your school. 
     
    - Some K-4 programs keep things simple and inexpensive enough to not require much, if any, membership fee. The upper elementary (grades 5-6) that this plan is based on has an annual fee of $25 with minimal built-ins, no faculty stipend, and about $600 in financial sponsorship for about 50 members in the first year. In the third year after the club was well equipped and the library was well stocked, club t-shirts were included to help build club spirit and serve as unannounced reminders on meeting days.
     
    - Go to the Budget Page to work out the details of the club's budget.

  8. Establish the club meeting day, time and location with the Faculty Sponsor.
    - You may want to include others in making your day of the week selection, to avoid as many conflicts with other large activities as possible. Weekly meetings are encouraged to help the members establish a routine. Bi-weekly or less frequent meetings tend to be a source of confusion for kids and parents alike and will reduce participation.
     
    - Generally speaking, lunch/recess is not sufficient time for a meeting, when you allow time for eating and consider that all grades may not have this period at the same time. Immediately after school is generally not in direct conflict with too many other activities away from school and allows sufficient time. Meetings should last about 1-hour for K-4, 1.25 hours for grades 5-6, and 1.5 to 2 hours for grades 7-12.
     
    - The meeting place will require enough tables for the expected club size. Conservatively plan to seat at tables about 15% of the student population for grades K-4, 10% for grades 5-6, and 7-5% for grades 7-12. If possible, the school cafeteria or library generally makes a great location. Any available nearby storage space for club supplies is a plus and may save on fixed costs in the budget.

  9. Choose the club first meeting date and plan chess club recruiting sessions.
    - You'll need to decide with the Faculty Sponsor on a first meeting date to publicize at the recruiting sessions. It's best to give yourself a full week between the last recruiting day and the first meeting, to allow preparation time.
     
    - Probably the easiest and most effective way to have a recruiting session is to set up a bunch of chess boards at lunch for two days near the lunch area and have lots of membership forms with available to hand out. If the school's cafeteria tables are all in use, you may need to borrow some from another area in the school, or from a church or community center. Chairs are nice, but not necessary, especially for grades 8 and under. In fact, tables are even optional for grades 6 and under, who are quite happy to put the boards on the floor.
     
    - Another good time for chess club recruiting is during your school's open house at the beginning of the school year. Once again, just set up a bunch of chess boards in a well traveled location and have lots of membership packets available to hand out. The nice thing about an open house is the parents being able to see their child's interest first hand.
     
    - You may be able to borrow about a dozen boards from the organizer of an established nearby club. Or you may choose to proceed with the purchase of some for the club using money from your Financial Sponsor which would be available for the recruiting sessions. USCF tournament regulation chess boards and sets with algebraic notation are recommended. The best deal on these are the "20 in. Vinyl Roll-Up Chessboard" and "Basic Plastic Chess Pieces with 2 Extra Queens, King 3-3/4" from Wholesale Chess.
     
    - Invite the media to the recruiting sessions and provide a draft article to help improve the accuracy of the resulting coverage. An example of such an article is provided HEREin MS Word format. You may also want to give the articles from the Benefits of Chess page too.

  10. Prepare membership form and promotional materials for recruiting sessions, including:
    - Chess Club Recruiting Announcement Flier to post around school, in MS Word format. Change information at quotes.
     
    - Chess Club Promotion Desk Sign, in MS Word format. Change information at quotes.
     
    - Membership Form to be approved by the Faculty Sponsor, in MS Word format. Change dues amount and fill information at quotes. It's best to simplify matters by having forms with dues brought to the member's first meeting, rather than troubling the office staff or your Faculty Sponsor with this, and possibly losing some during the extra handling. The only down side to this is not knowing how many to plan for at the first meeting, but that problem is resolved later in the plan.
    Attached to each membership form handed out during recruiting should be a copy of each of the following:
    - Benefits of Joining The Chess Club and USCF, in MS Word format. Change information as appropriate.
     
    - First Meeting Flier, in MS Word format. Change information at quotes. Put this at the back of the recruiting packet, so the left over ones can have this easily replaced with the Weekly Meeting Flier and be left in the office for those getting interested later.
     
    The following items are optional:
    - Chess Club Rules to be approved by the Faculty Sponsor. Edit this MS Word document as appropriate for your club. Change information at quotes.
     
    - A document linked from the Benefits of Chess page to help foster parental support of their child's interest. A popular 1-page selection is the Chess Program Report of New York City Schools, in pdf Adobe Reader format.
    You'll hand out about 3 to 5 times more recruiting packets than the number of actual members you'll have. Conservatively, make enough copies for about 40% of the student population for grades K-4, 30% for grades 5-6, and 15% for grades 7-12. The copies left over can be converted for availability in the school office after the club has started. This copy job will be about half your yearly copying, so your copying sponsor will be a big help at this time.

  11. Conduct the club recruiting sessions
    - During the recruiting sessions, don't worry about how the games are being played, if the kids aren't concerned. There will be time to learn more about chess at the meetings.
     
    - Be sure to space the tables out so that a crowd can watch any game, without having to get up against the players.
     
    - Post Chess Club Promotion Desk Signs on each end of the tables and around the recruiting area.
     
    - Place several stacks of Membership Form Packets in visible locations around the recruiting area next to Chess Club Promotion Desk Signs.
     
    - Ask the players to please set the pieces back in the starting positions at the conclusion of their games. This will help assure you don't loose any pieces, although be prepared to possibly loose one or two with so much traffic (you may end up with one incomplete set to use for spare pieces).
     
    - If a dispute arises, be prepared to give them the Chess Basic Moves and Captures with a membership form packet and introduce them to the method of conflict resolution through rulings by the official. Even if you knew nothing about chess before starting to form a chess club, you can quickly learn the basic moves and captures well enough to resolve disputes.
     
    - If all the boards are full and someone wants to play, suggest they find a board and ask to play the winner of the game in process.
     
    - During recruiting you may want to take some publicity photos for another newspaper article. Be sure to know the names of any kids pictured and include their parents names in the photo caption if possible.
     
    - If someone is being too much of a distraction, you can ask them to stand back a bit and keep it down so others can concentrate. When this doesn't work, you may have to ask a school official to remove disruptive individuals from the area. Do not hesitate to do this, so the others will have a more enjoyable experience and see that the rules are firmly enforced.
     
    - After the recruiting meetings, you may want to send another draft article to the newspaper with the results and to again help improve the accuracy of the resulting coverage.  An example of such an article is provided HERE in MS Word format.  You may also want to provide the articles from the Benefits of Chess page too.

  12. Other recruiting opportunities. 
    - Encourage your librarian to make chess boards available in the library for any student to play whenever it is appropriate. Make sure membership forms are available there too.
     
    - Gifted and Talented, Math and other teachers may also choose to allow limited chess play in their classes as an incentive for positive behavior. They should have registration forms too.

     

  13. Order the items that are necessary for your first meeting. 
    You haven't received any dues yet, so this is where the Financial Sponsor is a huge help.
    - Arrange for chess sets with boards. Borrow or buy enough for about half the estimated number of members you expect to join the club (one board for each two estimated members, divided again by two for the first meeting). At the first meeting, you'll have 75% or more of your actual members for the club and can immediately afterward order the proper balance of boards really needed. The first meeting will be consumed more by going over information than the meetings that will follow. Be sure to explain this to the kids so they know more chess will be played next week. For the relatively short time spent playing chess at this first meeting, you can team two players on each side of a board, with the most experienced helping the least experienced learn the game. Remember, you're probably going to be a bit optimistic and ultimately need fewer boards than you initially thought. As when choosing your meeting place, conservatively estimate membership of about 15% of the student population for grades K-4, 10% for grades 5-6, and 7-5% for grades 7-12. USCF tournament regulation chess boards and sets with algebraic notation are recommended. The best deal on these are the "20 in. Vinyl Roll-Up Chessboard" and "Basic Plastic Chess Pieces with 2 Extra Queens, King 3-3/4" from Wholesale Chess. Also, qualified schools may be eligible for 5 free chess sets through the "Chess For Youth" program of the U.S. Chess Trust.
     
    - 1" x 4" white address labels (20 per sheet) for computer printers to use as name stickers at the meetings, including the first one. Get enough for one per member per meeting (using your optimistic member count estimate, which will allow for unused stickers on a sheet)
     
    - 
    A couple of black permanent markers to make the name stickers for new members.
     
    - 
    A box of gallon-size ZipLoc bags for chess sets (the bags wear out or get broken from time to time)
     
    - 
    An audible timer to indicate cleanup time.
     
    - 
    Envelopes for dues collected
     
    - 
    Folders for membership forms, club history, weekly meeting plan, etc. A dozen should be plenty.
     
    - 
    Expanding File (with Flap, A-Z, 21 Pockets, Legal Size 10" x 15"). To see one, click HERE. You'll use this as your traveling file cabinet to keep your chess club papers in order.
     
    - 
    Paper towels to clean up any spills at snack time and wipe off tables when necessary.

  14. Prepare club information to hand out at first meeting, including:
    - The Chess Club Rules you handed out with the membership forms.
     
    - Chess 101: The Basics, which includes
            Chess Sportsmanship, in MS Word format.
            Chess Basic Moves and Captures, from the USCF website in MS Word format.
            Draw Games, in MS Word format.
            Chess Algebraic Notation, revised from Mr. Chess at redweb.com/chess in MS Word format.
            Scoresheet and Game Adjournment Diagram, in MS Word format.

    - Chess Basic Moves and Captures also has a condensed Chess Move Sheet of just the illustrations (475 kb MS Word document).
     
    - Letter to parents regarding Free USCF Scholastic Membership Program, in MS Word format.
     

  15. Prepare other club related fliers, including:
    - Weekly Meeting Flier for membership form packets after first meeting, in MS Word format. Change information at quotes.
     
    - Chess Club Standard Flier to always keep posted around school, in MS Word format. Change information at quotes.

  16. Prepare for and conduct your first meeting per a plan and materials list. 
    The material list should be based on this section and the three above. The plan should be something like the following
     
    - Put chess sets out in half the room and, if possible, have the other half of the tables clear for snacks and training.
     
    - Have kids line up at the registration desk as they arrive.
     
    - If shirts are included in the membership, verify the shirt size using samples.
     
    - Give each registered member a name sticker and invite them to go play chess or have any snack they brought on the other side of the room (away from the chessboards).
     
    - After all are registered have the members go to the side of the room away from the boards to briefly go over the Chess Club Rules, hand out Chess 101: The Basics and encourage all to study it, and give all members the Letter to parents regarding Free USCF Scholastic Membership Program (Be sure the school secretary has the Letter to USCF regarding Free USCF Scholastic Memberships from the Chess for Youth Program).
     
    - If you don't have enough boards for all to play, split the kids up between beginners and more experienced players. Then pair them up to play on the same side of the board as a learning opportunity. Send the kids to the boards until time to clean up.
     
    - During the meeting you may want to take some publicity photos for another newspaper article. Be sure to know the names of any kids pictured and include their parents names in the photo caption.
     
    - At 5 minutes before the end of the meeting, ask the kids to set the pieces up in the starting position and go to the other side of the room away from the boards, space permitting.
     
    - After a brief announcement and reminder to take their handouts, dismiss the kids to go with the faculty advisor or other responsible adult to the parent pick-up location.
     
    - Advise any late parents of the importance of the rule about prompt pickup. Don't allow parents to repeatedly keep your waiting a long time. You can offer to help them to make arrangements with a friend in the club, but being late is unacceptable and could result in their child being unable to attend.
     
    - Put everything away, count the fees collected, have the faculty advisor deliver them to the proper school official, and whoever will be maintaining the membership records should take the submitted forms with them.
     
    - Most Importantly: It's important to understand that chess is a fun social activity for most people, including kids. The focus needs to primarily be on fun and the other benefits of chess, and not so much about winning. Fun while learning breeds success, not the other way around. When you inquire about a game result, simply ask if it was a good game and if they had fun. You'll probably already know the outcome in terms of winning by looking at them. If not, you've been completely successful in keeping the priority where it belongs, on having fun while experiencing the Benefits of Chess.

  17. First meeting follow-up items:
    - Now that you have a chess club, be sure to sign up for a FREE OSCO Affiliate Club Membership, to be included on the Oklahoma Scholastic Chess Clubs list and receive occasional email broadcasts about Oklahoma Scholastic Chess News.
    - Chess sets with boards. Buy enough for the estimated number of members you expect to join the club (one board for each two estimated members, divided again by two for the first meeting). At the first meeting, you had 75% or more of your actual members for the club. So, order 1.3 times that number. Any extra boards can be sold to club members at cost. USCF tournament regulation chess boards and sets with algebraic notation are recommended. The best deal on these are the "20 in. Vinyl Roll-Up Chessboard" and "Basic Plastic Chess Pieces with 2 Extra Queens, King 3-3/4" from Wholesale Chess.
     
    - Order chess tournament clocks allowing about 1 per 8 members. The best deal on a simple clock for in-club use is the Diamond Quartz Analog Chess Clock at Wholesale Chess.
     
    - Order the 1st Year Fixed Expense Items that the budget can afford.
     
    - A tournament pairing software is very helpful for managing your in-club tournaments and calculating club ratings based on the club tournament games played. These ratings will help the members know who they should be playing to improve the most (those near their own rating). The best software package for interacting with a club management spreadsheet is 
    WinTD. It's worth the $90 in time savings, especially when you exchange data with a club management spreadsheet. The software may also come in handy for hosting interscholastic tournaments.
     
    - Submit newspaper information about your new club for publicity, if you so choose. Some schools require this to go through an approval process.
     
    - Enter the Membership information in a spreadsheet or database. For an Excel spreadsheet that you're welcome to use, click HERE. If you're using a tournament pairing software, your computer expert will find that WinTD exchanges data with the spreadsheet more easily than SwissSys or other programs.
     
    - Identify a club shirt provider with good prices and delivery lead time. In Tulsa, Townsend Marketing may be a good one to consider at 918-496-9222.
     
    - If you or someone among your volunteers is able to coach the club, count yourself as fortunate. Otherwise, you may need some help getting in contact with experienced players in your area that may be willing to coach. Often it is necessary to pay for coaching, depending upon the situation. Contact Mike Swatek at 918-342-4245 if you need help finding a coach.
     
    - If you already have the tournament pairing software, you may want to prepare for conducting your first in-club tournament round at your second meeting. These prepare the players for interscholastic tournaments and actually do bring quite a bit of order and routine to the meetings. For the first in-club tournament of the year, it's often best to include everyone in the same section to get a better understanding of all the players relative skill level. This can help in determining where to divide the group for more effective training. Sections larger than about 35 should play 5 rounds and sections larger than about 18 should play 4 for a reasonable chance of arriving at a clear winner.

  18. Conduct the second meeting, per a plan and materials list.
    Handouts may include:
    - There are two different USCF membership forms. If your club is an Affiliate Member of the USCF, a $2 discount is available by using the Membership form with affiliate Discounts. An additional $2 discount is available when USCF Affiliate Clubs process the new membership on line through the TD/Affiliate Support Area. Otherwise, members may use the standard Individual new membership and renewal form.
     
    - Tournament and training fliers linked from the OSCO Tournaments/Events page.
     
    - Scholastic Chess Pyramid of Success to help understand what to expect as chess involvement progresses.
     
    The plan may include a few of the following:
    - Registration of a few more new players.
     
    - The first tournament round if you're ready.
     
    - Reinforcement of any Chess Club Rules as appropriate.
     
    - Cover the Sportsmanship section of Chess 101: The Basics handed out at the first meeting.
     
    - Announce interscholastic tournament, independent training opportunities and USCF membership information.
     
    - Training session, possibly split into groups by skill level.
     
    - Share any positive reinforcement plan you have, like points for: scoresheets completed, chess puzzles or lessons submitted, library materials studied, involvement in training sessions, attendance, first few to the meeting (after the bell), wearing the club shirt to school, interscholastic tournament participation, etc...
     
    - Shirt design contest or ordering information.
     
    - And of course ample time for fun casual play. Be sure to always make sure the kids get to spend most of the time playing chess, in order to maintain their satisfaction with the club experience.

  19. Conduct additional meetings per a plan and have fun.
    You'll be well on your way to establishing your own club routine at this point. The most important keys to success is planning for each meeting and making sure the kids are having fun. You may want to refer to this page and USCF's A Guide to Scholastic Chess periodically for ideas that you may have chose to bypass.

    Once again, be sure to sign up for a FREE OSCO Affiliate Club Membership, to be included on the Oklahoma Scholastic Chess Clubs list and receive occasional email broadcasts about Oklahoma Scholastic Chess News.

  20. Year End Party
    - It's usually a good idea to end the chess club meetings in April, when spring fever has obviously taken over.
     
    - The last meeting can be a party following the last in-club tournament when the club championship tournament and other recognition awards are presented. Try to recognize all of the kids, even if its for congeniality or tenacity after having not made much progress on chess skills all year. 
     
    - It's a good idea to avoid things that are too messy or sweet for the party, unless you have plenty of help to keep up with messes and an increased activity, on top of the spring fever.
     
    - Once again, it's important to understand that chess is a fun social activity for most people, including kids. The focus needs to primarily be on fun and the other benefits of chess, and not so much about winning. Fun while learning breeds success, not the other way around. When you inquire about a game, simply ask if it was a good game and if they had fun. You'll probably already know the outcome in terms of winning by looking at them. If not, you've been completely successful in keeping the priority where it belongs, on having fun while experiencing the Benefits of Chess.