Checkmate! - KC employs unorthodox mental training for Manning Cup
Football, when played at a high level, is often compared to a game of chess, because of the intricate tactics, formations and strategies employed by teams to outsmart their opponents.
Jamaica Chess Federation President Ian Wilkinson holds this view and has taken this opinion one step further to actually teach students at his alma mater, Kingston College (KC), the sport, in order to help them become better footballers.
Wilkinson has been having afternoon sessions once a week with the school's Manning Cup team. He has had seven sessions so far and told The Gleaner that he is pleased with how this unorthodox method of mentally preparing for their games has been received.
"For the second time in seven years, I convinced KC to let me teach chess to the Manning Cup team," he said. "A couple of the players said to me, 'Boy, Mr Wilkinson, the chess game really helped today'.
"I'm saying to them, when you're at the left-back position, for instance, this is C2 (a particular square on the chess board based on grids), when you have the forward over the half-line way up on the left flank straight ahead of you, that is C7. I let them know that the chess board is the football field and I relate every part of the chess board to it. Football was invented out of chess."
Wilkinson went further to suggest that the three phases of the game - defence, midfield and attack - are similar to the three phases in chess.
"Chess has three parts to it - opening, mid game and end game. The opening is usually the first 10 moves, the middle game is after 10 to 15 moves - the strategic part. I tell them the king is the goalkeeper, so you have to protect your king at all times. Checkmate is when you corner the king and he can't move. This is like cornering the keeper, and scoring - the end game."
KC head coach Ludlow Bernard praised the work Wilkinson has been doing with the team, saying he has already seen the results.
"They use it as an opportunity to diffuse some of the tension and some of the stress and the expectations of the team," he said. "The guys are gravitating towards it and it seems to be having some kind of effect on them.
Bernard credits chess for helping his players to remain calm in pressure situations during games.
"They are a lot calmer in their disposition and their play," he said. "I hope that in the long run, this new-found hobby will go a far way in allowing our team to really play some good football, composed football more importantly. Of course, it's an opportunity, as well, for them to exercise, stimulate the brain to be able to know how to create chances, create attacks, how to break up plays. It is going a far way and I really appreciate what Mr Wilkinson has been doing for us."
KC are currently leading Group E in the ISSA-FLOW Manning Cup. They are unbeaten, having won eight of their nine games, and drawing the other. They have scored 51 goals, while only conceding 5 and have 25 points, five more than second-placed Excelsior High. They close out the group against Greater Portmore tomorrow at the Stadium East field at 3:30 p.m..