BEWARE – Chess Coaching Scams

National developments, strategies and ideas.
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Re: BEWARE – Chess Coaching Scams

Post by CliveHill » Wed Feb 22, 2012 1:19 pm

My contact in California tells me that the USCF requires a letter from an accredited USCF related group to become a certified chess coach, but I can see that this may set the bar too high in some circumstances and too low in others.

My personal suggestion would be to create a sort of 'kite mark' - ECF inspected - which coaches who advertise their services could go about acquiring by (a) just submitting their online documentation - one star - and (b) having a meeting with someone from the 'accredited' pyramid (so if they know what they are doing - two stars). A self-styled coach who is not known in the organised chess world, but is a person of goodwill, would have nothing to worry about and could be encouraged to join one of the more formal coaching groups. I infer that some of the real charlatans mentioned in this thread might be liable under consumer protection legislation?

Like Sabrina, I work for CSC, but I'm writing here in a purely personal capacity.

Julian Clissold
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Re: BEWARE – Chess Coaching Scams

Post by Julian Clissold » Mon Feb 27, 2012 12:24 pm

I have followed with interest the thread on Chess Coaching Scams. I welcome the appointment of David Levens whose track record is evidence that he brings experience to this area.
I have coached children in the Manchester area for the last twenty years, and I am an ECF accredited coach and ECF and EPSCA Arbiter (whatever any of those mean). I am also a (retired) teacher with considerable experience in lesson observation and assessment of teaching and training. Fianlly I am an active member of EPSCA Council that has much to offer in terms of experience and expertise in the area of Junior Coaching.

Some of the discussion has been incisive and important. It is VERY IMPORTANT that we monitor and and exercise judgement on what is an acceptable standard of coaching. Organisations that do not do exercise control over their own domain usually end up in trouble - Bankers and Journalists spring to mind. But we should not be depressed, other sectors have been through this; independant colleges that do GCSE and A Level resits, music teachers, boxing instructors, Yoga teachers, Psychotherapists and others. Each have established National Bodies or their equivalent, and have set out criteria for what might constitute high quality practice. This DOES NOT exorcise cowboys, but it gives the public a resource to make their own assessment and it demonstrates that the sector is trying to act responsibly, rather than just ignoring the problem.

None of the above organisations got there over night, and went through a series of stages to get into a position where they could define standards and make these stick. I suspect Chess Coaching will need to do the same. Too many attempts so far have set out an ambitious programme of accreditation without confronting the practical possibilities of delivering this, maintaining it and making it stick. I suspect that the current ECF coaching accreditation falls into that category. Self definition and a CRB cannot be enough even if it is a start. Clearly accreditation is where we want to be, but there are some things we could do first and do quite easily.

We have a starting point - the ECF list. Those are people who have put their hands up and said "I coach". We should extend that principle and establish a protocol for what, who, when and why they coach. So for instance in my own case:
I will only coach juniors
I will coach small groups and large groups 10-40
I will only coach in the grading range 60-130.
I am not paid for coaching, but I do ask parents/schools to make a donation to Manchester Junior Chess, this might be a donation or the provision of a service (free weekend use of a school hall is not uncommon)
I will only coach in the Manchester area
I maintain schemes of work and lesson plans for all my coaching: every session has an established objective and is part of a planned programme.
I coach in schools and in my own chess club, and am prepared to coach in other local chess clubs.
Children are expected to be active chess players and play in local junior and senior leagues as appropriate.
Children are expected to record their games

I play chess in the Manchester League
I am a controller and arbiter for Adult and Junior Tournaments (about twenty per annum)

If ECF drew up a pro forma that every coach had to fill in, this would create a base line of information about coaches, and force us to be explicit about what we want to do. The information could be standardised and held on the ECF Coaching website.

ECF Coaching could then move on from this initial position and organise a set of communications so that similar coaches could be in dialogue about their methods, their best practice, their problems and their solutions. In this way ECF could begin to create a chess coaching community. This could be a virtual or a real comunity/communities. Many teachers use these for example in Teaching English, Modern languages, Maths etc.,

The next stage would be the systematic identification of a minimum skills set for coaching chess; I think this is where David's letter starts with gradations of coaching. As many contributors have noted, it is no good making assumptions about this skill set; not everyone is a grandmaster and not everyone is a teacher, and the skillset is complex. having an active chess coaching community would help to crystallise that skillset.

Finally we can be in a position to define what it is that makes a chess coach. Then we can start the difficult task of identifying Sabrina's cowboys.

I suspect the above stages need much discussion and addition, but they are the direction of travel that needs to be achieved.

Julian Clissold
Manchester Junior Chess

Steve Rooney
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Re: BEWARE – Chess Coaching Scams

Post by Steve Rooney » Mon Feb 27, 2012 5:01 pm


Some excellent practical suggestions on the need for a proper accreditation system and the benefits from promulgating best practice, and having clear standards which can help identify "cowboys", even if, as you say, it can't exorcise them.

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