“This is a natural progression. You study chess; you are going to be able think deep. Our boys need that.”---Andy Thomas, Necco Center.
A wild idea.
Necco Center Case Manager, Andy Thomas can be described as passionate. He is passionate about his job and passionate about the kids he serves. He brings new ideas to the table to ensure our kids have the best day possible. A long-time chess player, Andy approached the team recently with the idea of creating a Chess Club for the boys. He felt that the game would foster a whole new set of skills in the boys. “Chess can teach the boys to think logically, plan, and strategize, have foresight, understand outcomes.”
Applying the principles.
In his Twelve Principles of Re-education, Dr. Nicholas Hobbs lists "Competence makes a difference; children and adolescents should be helped to be good at something..." For over eight years, Necco Center staff have believed that teaching physical contact sports to our boys, football, softball, and basketball is the key to making them feel competent. So, when Andy suggested the boys learn to play chess, many were skeptical. Our boys were accustomed to physical activity and constant movement. How would they manage sitting in a chair and being quiet for a stretch of time? Well, fast forward five months. Who attends Chess Club every Monday? Eight to ten of our boys do. Who has learned terms such as “castling” and “en passant”? Eight to ten of our boys have. These boys have learned a new skill, and not only that, they are good at it.
A sight to be seen.
Ohio State Director, Greg Thompson, spends most of his workweeks traveling to and from Ohio Necco locations such as Cincinnati, South Point, and Necco Center. So, when he was able to witness the Chess Club in action, he was amazed. “These boys, our boys, were not only playing one of the most challenging and critical thinking games in history, but were doing so competitively. For years, we have prided ourselves in how well we get the boys out in the community and involve them in extracurricular activities, but this was different. It was purely intellectual. We serve a population that struggles with school, yet we graduated 5 from high school last May, and the entire population has very low IQ scores, yet there they sat, calculating moves and countermoves way ahead of the present.”
Thompson and his Necco Center Team are amazed at how well the program is working. “We believe it will open the door to far more challenges and activities that are purely intellectual, rather than sports related.” And looking back, when we were wondering how our boys would respond to a game not of physical skill, but of intellect, Andy Thomas was likely thinking of the French chess term j'adoube; they will adjust.