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A New Peer Coaching Program

Adam Grant, a great thinker, has just released his latest book, Hidden Potential:The Science of Achieving Greater Things. In a recent interview, Adam discussed The Raging Rooks, a Harlem chess team comprising economically disadvantaged students of color in fourth through sixth grade. In just two short years, The Raging Rooks rose to become National Chess Champions, defeating private schools that had held the Chess National Title for decades. These private schools had the best teachers and received incredible support from their families, making them the most successful chess players in the world. Adam Grant aptly stated, "they were up against kids who were chosen for their ability and put in Olympic training centers since they were five years old."

Grant was intrigued by their success and wanted to uncover their secret. This led him to the coach of The Raging Rooks, Maurice Ashley, a Jamaican immigrant and chess master who implemented what he called 'scaffolding' for the kids. Scaffolding, as we know, is a structure that enables people to climb higher on a structure they can't conquer alone. So, what did this scaffolding entail? Ashley taught the students to review each other's games, engage in discussions on how to play better, and share notes. They formed a community where they lived and breathed chess together. Ashley referred to this as a teamwork exercise, and it went beyond just playing matches with teacher instruction. The results were remarkable. The students surpassed their circumstances and achieved phenomenal growth.


Karen, stumbled upon a similar approach before realizing it was a tried and true methodology documented in Adam's book. It all started when she offered to play a match with an up-and-coming player named Marianne Bowen in the Washington DC area.


They played on, and Marianne introduced Karen to playing in "Consultation" mode. In this mode, Heroes displays any checker errors in green (small error), yellow (major error), or red (blunder) after the move is made. It also provides feedback on cube decisions, including failures to double correctly on previous plays. Having the "right" checker and cube decisions displayed gave Karen the confidence to become a Peer Coach.


She agreed to play a weekly match in Consultation mode with two Intermediate players. Together, they would discuss potential decisions before making moves and review any errors or blunders afterward. Karen shared, "Stepping up to be a Peer Coach benefits me as much as the mentee! I can see my own mistakes as they happen and gain an understanding of what I'm doing wrong. It's time well-spent, not just for the mentee but also an investment in my own improvement."


We are excited to offer a Peer Coaching program for any woman who wants to be coached, become a coach, or even participate in Peer Coaching with fellow players to enhance their skills. This program encourages playing matches with each other and discussing different approaches afterward. We invite you to be part of our initial program. If you are interested, please email us here, and we will be in touch. We will also keep you updated on the program's progress. Let's come together as women, supporting and learning from each other to become better players. Let's build scaffolding for ourselves within the realm of backgammon competition and elevate ourselves collectively beyond what we can achieve individually.

Lastly, let's not forget Maurice's impact on the parents of The Raging Rooks team. He changed their perception of their children, enabling them to see their potential and greatness. These children were not chess prodigies; they were kids who learned to love the game and learn from each other. It's no surprise that these kids went on to achieve great things in fields such as computer programming, writing, raising families, and law. We are truly inspired by their success and extend our heartfelt congratulations to the team.


-Karen Davis & Christine Merser, co-founders, Backgammon. Winning. Women.


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