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What makes a champion?

We witnessed the brilliant win very recently when Our very own Praggnanandhaa defeated Magnus Carlsen. So we’ve been getting a valid question – we do have many chess players in our country, and we have many children who take up chess competitively. We also do have the mind and the logical reasoning skills to play chess, so why do we have only one performing at his 100% best and showing global results?

In our culture, we often focus on the performance or the end result rather than the process in itself. When a child does well, plays a tournament, we often keep building this pressure around more wins rather than better performance. The problem with the focus directed to winning is that the child or the player gets into this cycle of expecting a win, rather than expecting to perform better. We often celebrate the wins, rightfully but we miss out on acknowledging the skill and the effort.

Let’s take an example. Let’s assume your child is 10 year old and you are sending him over to chess coaching. He learns his skill, and in t 2 years or so he starts playing in tournaments. Once he starts playing, maybe he plays well,  maybe he even wins a match or two. We start expecting him to win every match and hence the child also expects to win every match from then on. So the focus moves to getting the results rather than the actual skill progress in itself. As they grow older the prime focus is on the ranking and the frequency of matches to be played instead of training hours. This goes on predominantly in many families. 

So how do we create more champions? The focus has got to be on long term athletic development. We expect Uber quick results. We want super fast coaching, express winning and mostly aren’t taking enough time to develop the skill required. We have to create a balance between practising, progressing and performing. This balance certainly holds the key to creating more champions. 

The question arises how we achieve this balance. Here are a few pointers that would enable you to achieve this balance. 

At home, it is always essential to teach or guide your child to progress in terms of skills.The progress and the mental acumen will eventually lead to the performance. It’s very easy to see quick results and work towards it, but a champion is created with time and when we focus on the long term progress, skills and results. It is essential to keep in mind the following:

1.Every child is different – Whether it’s a coach or a parent expecting the same kind of progress from two different chess players or the child himself/herself comparing with others, it is essential to understand that every child is different. Every player develops skill in different ways and certainly the time taken by each child will be different. It’s important and essential to notice the changes and progress instead of looking for tournament wins constantly. 

2.Review and realign – When the child sets a goal, it is essential that it is his/her goal. It’s also important to create a plan around it. What is more important at every juncture- to review and realign. Most often in between the season, especially when there are multiple tournaments that go on, we get carried away and expect ourselves to win instead of being on track with the goal and align with the development of skills for achieving long-term goals. Reviewing and realigning will definitely enable the child to understand the priorities. It would also help your child to understand that the process is clear and defined. Hence work on it with absolute ease. 

3.Use the tournament or competitions as indicators– When your child goes into a competition, especially when he/she is young, it is essential to first understand if it is a “must win” competition or a “experiment” competition. Experiment competition is when the main goal would be to experiment with the skills they have learnt. Must win competitions are the ones in which they focus on winning. Of course they may win the experiment competitions, but the focus is more towards putting the skill that they have learnt to use in a pressurizing environment. 

In conclusion, it is essential to look for progress rather than performance, and also important to look for long term results especially when the child is growing up and typically in the training and learning phase. When we use the performance or rankings as indicators and not as our prime focus, we would certainly help the child grow and cultivate the habit of progressing and hence become a champion. 

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