Coach’s Perspective: Fair Lawn Week 2
Hello students and parents of the ICA community. My name is Alessandro and I am a coach at our summer camp this year. All of you know what an enriching experience our camp is for the campers, but you may not realize how much the coaches gain from being with all of the wonderful students of the ICA each day throughout the summer. To show you the wonderful but often unconsidered perspective of the educator, I will write a report for each week of camp that I experience. This will not be like the normal weekly reports that describe the generally notable events of each week and the winners of the many prizes we offer; rather, I will choose several illuminating examples of just what it means to be an ICA coach from each week and share them with you.
This week, in the same fashion as every other ICA chess camp for years, we began each day with our signature gauntlet-style dodgeball game. For the uninitiated, this morning ritual involves the campers standing inside of a circle created by the coaches and then trying to dodge as the coaches throw dodgeballs at them to get them out. The campers use many different strategies to evade our throws. One of the most effective is simply being small, as demonstrated by Anton, one of our most successful dodgeball players for every year that he has attended camp. Jessica, on the other hand, stays near the edge of the circle and is consequently often forgotten by the coaches until she one of the last people still in. Others took advantage of the rule that says that if a camper hands the ball to a coach, the coach cannot get that camper out with that ball. One of our oldest campers, Alex, used the less subtle method of jumping in front of throws in order to catch them, a practice which gave him an extra life each time he was successful. Inspired by students’ ingenuity, myself and David discovered a new strategy for the coaches. In order to circumvent the rule to protect ball-givers, two coaches would yell “Switch!” and throw their balls to one another in order to get out the kids who had planned to camp out near their “safe coach” for a while. I am amazed by how much goes into this simple morning exercise, the twenty minutes of fun before the hard work begins.
After playing their tournament games in the afternoon, campers had the opportunity to participate in a simultaneous display, or “simul” for short. This involves one coach taking on a number of kids simultaneously. The winner of the simul competition is the person who lasts the greatest number of moves until a coach beats him or her. Anyone who draws or beats the coach is also declared a winner. This is a great opportunity for the students because they get to experience the strong play of their coaches without sitting down to a hopeless one-on-one game with a much stronger player. The coaches still manage to win most of the time, but one persistent camper sometimes combines their great skill with a little bit of luck to pull off an upset victory. This week Jinu managed to beat me in the simul in this fashion. Despite several early inaccuracies, he stayed alive and dragged the game to an endgame. Rushing around to various boards, I missed a tactic of his that allowed him to achieve parity. By the time I was winning again I had only several seconds left on my clock. Jinu excitedly cheered as the final second ticked off my clock. Though he was down a queen, he had me beat by time. I am inspired by the perseverance of everyone who plays in a simul to challenge someone so much stronger than them. I am honored to work with the amazing kids of the ICA.