Basketball fans throw around terms like “ball hogs” and “facilitators”. A poor point guard, for example, will “hog the ball” attempting to be the star to the detriment of the team. A good point guard is a facilitator for the entire team setting the plays and passing the ball to a teammate with the best opportunity to score. After the game, a ball hog might attribute a loss to a couple of bad calls in a cruel game. A facilitator, on the other hand, makes no excuses for losses other than failing to execute. Sometimes the league MVP award doesn’t go to the guard with the most assists but teams don’t win championships without a good facilitator.
Over the years, I have played all of the positions in the chess community from player, to tournament director, to coach, to organizer and to Chess Dad. The majority of my fans remember me as the hotshot coach whose students win all the championships. Honestly, though, my favorite moments of my chess career are quietly providing assistance and then watching the people I helped achieve great things.
In the past, I was very much in a competitive mindset running a chess nonprofit in a dog-eat-dog environment. The most enjoyable times of my weekly routine were always just teaching chess but surviving in the fierce nonprofit sector consumed the majority of my focus. Suddenly, in 2020, I became very ill which forced me to step back from my daily grind and gain greater perspective on what really matters in life. For me that was just being a facilitator.
After shuttering my nonprofit, I spent the better part of this last year passing my knowledge to future stars while quietly working to facilitate opportunities and chance meetings that will have long lasting impacts on scholastic chess in the United States. I may not be in the public eye as often, but I am much happier quietly facilitating others in the chess community behind the scenes.
Some say games like basketball or chess, and even the entire world can be cruel. The “ball hog” chess personalities who blame their failures on a cruel world will likely never learn why they continually fail to execute. Chess like basketball can be harsh, so it is important to be honest with yourself as to how your mistakes factored into a bad result. When outcomes become too harsh, try switching gears to facilitate others. Simply put, assisting others has the direct benefit of making your reality kinder.