Starting a chess club is a fairly simple endeavor - it requires time, patience,
a place a meet, and some money for equipment.
Talk with the Principal of the school to see what the ground rules are for
before/after school clubs, and their requirements. Is there any budget? Do you
get money from the school or the PTSA, or do you "charge dues" or ask for
donations for attending the club to raise money for equipment? Do you need a
teacher to be involved? You may need to put together a proposed budget and
"business plan" to pitch to the PTSA to get funding.
Put some ideas together for options of a place to meet (i.e. the school's
cafeteria, gymnasium, or library, or maybe an off campus facility like a church
or community meeting room…), and the time/day you'd like the club to meet
(before school on Wednesday's for an hour). Before school is easier since you
don't have to worry about how kids get home.
How many kids do you expect?
5-15% of the population is a rule of thumb, though in my first year we had 20%
- it was a new school, with not a lot of other clubs or activities. Make sure
the facility you arrange for is suitable for the size of your club. Make sure
there are tables and chairs available and set up (perhaps you need to talk to
basic chess sets with vinyl bags and roll up boards (you need one chess set
for every two kids - again, how many will YOU need?). Get good equipment -- the cheap plastic and cardboard sets you'll find in department stores are just that, cheap. Kids will get frustrated when someone bumps the board and all the pieces fall over. Do yourself a favor, and buy some quality sets with weighted pieces. Order an extra set of pieces to canibalize when pieces go missing. If you want to save some money, skip the vinyl bags and get some zip-lock bags from the grocery store.
a hang-up demo board for teaching some of the basics of chess,
a couple of big Tupperware bins for storing equipment.
Books, software, chess clocks, etc. are nice additions if the money is available.
Once the money and facility stuff is taken care of, order the equipment and
advertise. Run articles through the school paper. Put up posters in the school.
What information do you need for each student to join the club? Name, parent's
names, phone numbers, email addresses, teacher's name, emergency contact info.
Their estimated chess skill level… Put a membership form
together and make it available - hanging next to the posters in the school, in
the before/after school care center, in the office, on your chess club website.
Take some blank forms with you to the chess club meetings. Put a database or
spreadsheet together to organize the information you gather. Put an email
distribution list together to keep the parents informed of what's happening with
Oh, you might want to put a website
together for distributing information and keeping the excitement going.
Volunteers are important for running the club. One adult for every 10-15 kids
is a good ratio.
Help is needed:
signing in kids (we make a sign in sheet from a simple database of kids who
have already handed in membership forms with blanks for new kids - useful in case of emergency),
distributing and collecting equipment,
matching up kids to keep them playing,
teaching lessons, etc.
And it's also good if there's a parent or two around to play chess with the
"odd" kid - it never seems to fail that you have an odd number of kids coming to
play chess, and one has to wait or just watch. Have a parent play them a game!
Volunteers are also valuable for doing some of the stuff I've mentioned throughout
this article - you don't need to do it all yourself!
Teach the kids to play "touch move" rules. If they touch a piece, they have to move it if it's legally possible. If they touch their opponents piece, they must take it if it's legally possible. No "take-backs" -- sorry, but if they ever play in a tournament, they'll need to live by those rules, so live by it in the club.
Take pictures at club meetings and tournaments, and put them on your website and school newsletter.
Walk the kids through famous or instructive games.
Talk to the school's librarian to see if there's any money for purchasing
chess books or training software, suggest some titles if there is money available...
T-shirts... talk to the PTSA or whoever it is at the school that does school
t-shirts, and arrange for Chess Club t-shirts. Encourage club members to wear
them on chess club day, and to tournaments. It's a kind of "uniform" and makes
them feel like part of a team.