THE National Association of Secondary Heads (Nash) has embraced the recently launched Chess Mates Academy, saying it would be a springboard for young players who wish to go professional in the game.
Founded by a local businesswoman, Prisca Sibanda, in partnership with chess enthusiasts in the city, the academy is a first in Bulawayo with the sole aim of developing talent in schools at a time when the game’s popularity is waning countrywide.
“The school system appreciated the work being done by Chess Mates Academy in teaching our young learners how to play the game. We see this as a launch pad to those learners who would want to take up the game after school,” said Ronny Sibanda, a Nash representative who is also the headmaster at Mosi oa Tunya High School in Victoria Falls.
According to Sibanda, Chess Mates Academy is going to be a pacesetter in talent identification.
“Being home to as many school going players under the age of 18, the academy is poised to be the sought after chess school in the country.
“At a time when the game of chess is yet to find popularity in schools, Chess Mates Academy has a vision of churning out players who are passionate about the game. The overall objective is to empower communities through sport,” Sibanda said.
She added that what distinguished this academy from the rest was that it had become a different kind of enterprise — a talent factory in schools.
“The goal is not just to assemble children and teach them chess basics, but to mould and make them play the game in a way that is going to change their lives and open opportunities.”
She said players who join the academy had an opportunity to be exposed through participating in tournaments, locally and on the world stage.
Everything about the academy, from the amenities to the pedigree of the coaches, signifies quality as Sibanda roped in the services of the Bulawayo Chess Association (BCA).
BCA has coaches whose record speaks of successful stints with as many players under their tutelage doing well at the national schools circuit.
“At Chess Mates Academy we want to be a feeder to the national team. By grooming young players we also give them an environment that teaches them how to be professional players.
“We are just starting and we are grateful to the parents, schools and the corporate world that have come on board to assist. Without junior sport investment, games like chess are dead. This is why I want to be heavily involved with this game. I have noticed that when the children play, they are joyful, they enjoy it and give inspiration to others and the community at large,” said Sibanda.
Sibanda said she saw the need to form the chess school after being inspired by the triumph of a Montrose Girls High pupil, Tsepo Ndebele, who is set to represent the country at the regional schools competition in Namibia later in September.
“I had no idea about chess but when I learnt of Tsepo’s story I was awestruck,” she said.
“I had to contribute something towards the beautiful story of a girl child who has defied odds in sport. No doubt, chess academies are a growing trend in most cities but Chess Mates Academy aims to do more than just developing young talents.”