Nov. 21, 2012
By Kim Eaton
D”Angelo Noye views chess like a game of life. The various pieces on the board represent different people in his life who are meant to protect him, the king. He views the queen as his mother. While those pieces are meant to protect him, he still has to make the right decisions.
Skills like paying attention and being observant are key. Chess players must always think ahead, rather than in the moment. A move might look good in that instant, but it could hurt the player later in the game, said the 15-year-old.
“Just like life,” Noye said. “You”ve got to look at your best outcomes, not rush into decisions.”
Noye had the opportunity to apply those skills Thursday during a chess match at Tuscaloosa Magnet Schools.
Sponsored by the University of Alabama Center for Ethics and Social Responsibility, the event was planned, coordinated and run by UA students enrolled in Every Move Counts, an honors service-learning course in which students explore the academic and social benefits of chess for schoolchildren, and then teach those children how to play.
Throughout the semester, UA students in the course learn about the state”s education system and different teaching styles. Then, they apply those lessons while “coaching” about 230 second- through 12th-graders in various Tuscaloosa schools. Every year, the UA students host a chess slots match for their young pupils, inviting area schools with chess clubs to participate.
In addition to learning the game, the young students are developing other skills that help in different aspects of their life, like patience, focus, concentration, sportsmanship, problem solving and critical thinking.
“You can never know what to do in every situation. Your plan is always changing when your opponent moves his piece, so you have to be able to think on your feet,” said Isaac Smith, 11, a sixth-grader at Tuscaloosa Magnet Middle School. “If you could see every threat, then you could win every game. That”s the most exciting, but also challenging aspect of chess — observation.”
Anyone can learn how to play the game — Clark Moman, 10, even taught his grandmother.
“You have to be strategic, know your best moves and be a good sport,” said the fourth-grade Tuscaloosa Magnet Elementary School student. “It definitely takes a lot of patience, waiting for your opponent to make his move. But in the end, my game plan is just to have fun.”
The young students, however, are not the only ones who have fun. Their college coaches also enjoy themselves, and some even continue helping after their semester is finished. UA sophomore Michael Goetsch, 19, took Every Move Counts last year, but has continued helping as a lead volunteer this year. As a biology and science major, he said working with the children is a nice change of pace. Over the past couple of years, he has seen a marked difference in the students he coaches, and he has loved being a part of that.
“It”s such an incredible feeling, when you”re working with someone and you see them finally get it,” Goetsch said.
Even more than the skills and the game, the college students get to know the children and start developing relationships with them. Jadah Aaliyah Rice, 9, has loved working with her coach. The Alberta Elementary School third-grader said since her “school blew down” in last year”s tornado, she had been really sad, but the UA students helped cheer her up.
“It”s great that they help us,” Rice said. “I can”t wait to see them every week.”