Start Your Own Go Club
by Evan Behre
Anyone can start a go club in their community. There is no mystery about it. No special skills required. Here is a recipe that works. Mix the following ingredients:
- Place to meet
- Time to meet
- Go players
Heat with enthusiasm and stir with creativity. The process is never over; you have to keep the fire alive. If you get tired of fanning the flames, pass on the job to another enthusiastic volunteer.
Easier said than done, right? Well, maybe. Let's talk about the ingredients in a little more detail.
Place to meet
Finding a place to meet is the first challenge. Here are some suggestions:
- The food court at the local mall
- Your public library
- Coffee houses and bars
- Bookstores, game stores
- Community centers
Some smaller clubs simply meet in the homes of the players.
Time to meet
Deciding on a time to meet is not so difficult, but it is important to pick a time and stick with it. Consistency is the key to getting players to return. If they can count on finding opponents on a regular basis, then it's a "no brainer." If they have to keep up with a changing schedule, then they might get confused, forget, or have doubts about "Is there a meeting tonight?" My club meets on Tuesday evenings. I didn't want to conflict with other local area clubs' meetings (Fridays and Sundays), nor did I want to compete with Monday Night Football. We meet at 7 p.m. and play until about 11 p.m. Other clubs in the area are similar, maybe starting a little later.
How do you flush the players out of hiding and get them to come to your club? You need to advertise. A mixture of social media and good old RL (real-life) promotion will help you find the players and potential players in your community.
Posters and Fliers: The AGA Promotion Page offers several useful and attractive posters for download; just add your information and put them up around town at local coffee shops, book stores, libraries, schools, etc. Your local Asian-American community almost certainly contains several skilled players. At local colleges you may also find interested or experienced players. Bring or send fliers to tournaments and events in your area.
Schools and Libraries: The American Go Foundation will help you start a program at your local school or library. For instance, your local library can get a FREE copy of Hikaru No Go, all 23 volumes of the manga, for the cost of shipping ($20).
Social Media: Collect e-mail addresses obsessively; create a mailing list and pop up in inboxes every so often with reminders about meeting times, updates, news, etc. Create a presence on Facebook; you can be a group, like The Brooklyn Go Club a community like The Gotham Go Group, or explore other entities. Meetup.org offers additional advantages for a small monthly fee. You can list your club on Igolocal and you will receive a notice whenever anyone else in your area signs up. And what the heck, tell Life In 19X19, the Internet go chat group of choice, that you're out there. You never know! A fellow enthusiast could be down the block.
When first starting out, ask players to bring their own sets. You need only half of the players to bring sets to have enough for everybody. Ask for dues to help purchase game sets. Unfortunately, "the ask" doesn't come naturally to everyone, but it's the second stage of growth. If your club amasses a small treasury, they will figure out a way to use it. Cheap, decent equipment is available online. Eventually, if your club has regular access to storage, you can obtain a modest inventory of sets so that members do not have to continue bringing their own sets.
Starting a go club can be as easy as mix (time, place, players, sets), heat (with enthusiasm), and stir (with creativity).
Growing Your Go Club
So far we have used the cooking metaphor of mixing ingredients (place, time, players, and game sets), heating (with enthusiasm), and stirring (with creativity). Now we're going to switch to a gardening metaphor.
Like a garden, a go club requires maintenance. You can't just plant the flowers or vegetables and leave the rest to nature. If you do, you put your garden at the mercy of drought, infertile soil, and weeds. You must prepare the soil, sow the seeds, apply water and fertilizer, and pull out the weeds. If your club is in a big city, and you already have a critical mass of players attending, then it has a momentum of its own. But smaller clubs need the kind of nurturing we will be talking about here.
Recruit: Attrition is natural. Players move out of town or have changing interests and priorities. For this reason, you need a constant inlfux of new members. Don't just go after experienced players. Try to bring new players into the game. Teach beginners. Welcome newcomers.
Stay In Touch: Keep your members coming back. Send periodic e-mails, especially when there is something to announce.
Pay It Forward: Most clubs include many kyu players, including "DDKs" (double-digit kyu). They emphasize teaching games and lessons. Giving a weaker player a handicap game is a way of "paying it forward." You are investing your time in future players for yourself and others. They not only become more challenging opponents, but they are more likely to keep their interest up if they are making noticeable progress.
Tournaments: As the club matures, you may want to hold a tournament. It's easier than you think! If you are a Chapter, the AGA will support you every step of the way, starting with resources available on The AGA Tournament Page.. Use the tournament as an opportunity to publicize your club. Hold it in a venue that will attract some attention from passers-by. Get listed as a community event in your local paper and on the radio. Be ready with handouts describing the game and your club.
For a fun change of pace, you could try holding some special events -- a 9x9 (small board) tournament or a lightning tournament at the club during regular club hours. These games go fast, so you can get in several rounds in a few hours. Variety is the spice of life. Don't be afraid to experiment with new ideas.
You may want to establish a club ladder or rating system. A ladder or rating system will establish a "pecking order" of playing strengths among the members of the club. It can serve to let players know what handicaps or pairings might be appropriate, as well as monitoring improvement. As an AGA Chapter, you can hold rated tournaments and help your members establish and work on their AGA ratings. If a tournament seems like too much work, try a league. Players sign up, pay the entry fee, then play as many other league members as they can.
Good luck with your club!