Since I doubt any but a few of our members who already attend read this website, this post will not be the most useful. On the off chance that it may lead to something, I’ll try anyway. Please feel free provide any constructive feedback as a comment here or in an email.
I think our chapter of the AGA has been very successful, thanks largely to Josh who has clearly invested a lot of time and energy into creating an active and fun group with both very casual and very competitive events, not to mention teaching many of us! Our regular attendance isn’t large, but it’s quite stable and we’ve had a good showing in the local tournaments over the last two years … both in terms of representative attendance, as well as placing. We’re lucky to have Josh, and I am sure we’re all quite grateful to him.
But I am concerned about the diversity of strength and experience of those who attend regularly. Aside from Josh, the strength range of those that regularly attend is quite narrow … perhaps 4k-12k. Over the last year, we’ve had a number of newer players attend, but their attendance invariably flags. I can see several reasons why this might be so.
First, it is quite natural and reasonable for people with some interest to try something out, satiate their curiosity and move on. We cannot expect to retain all new players. Some, perhaps most, will find that they have other interests and obligations that are prioritized over Go (yes, I know … it is possible, though admittedly strange to those of us who obsess over the game). Still, I count well over a dozen 20k+ having come over the past year and even a 10% retention would presume we get two “regulars”, which has clearly not occurred.
Second, many are likely UCF employees or students who find it difficult to prioritize weekday meetings to play Go during the semester. If this is so, we really need to revisit the second, on-campus meeting day and time question. Also, my hope is that we will see more this summer.
More generally, it is possible that the meeting location, time, or day is an obstacle for many. Of course, there is no ideal choice, and I’m reluctant to suggest a change that inconvenienes those that already attend, but if logistics are a major obstacle for many people, I’d like to know. Ideally such concerns would be accompanied by alternative suggestions. I’ll take what I learn from such comments to Josh.
My final thought is the bootstrap problem: It’s hard to break into a game when you feel you have no hope at winning. A 20k+ is unlikely to play competitively with any of our “regulars”, even with a large handicap. Better would be that they play one another, but if such rarely attend then there’s a self-fulfilling cycle. It seems we need at least two regular new players whose strengths are close enough that beginners can be offered a difficult, but ultimately tractable challenge. If we hope to offer some variety in strength and style of play to new players, we need more than two.
Of course, those that regularly attend will get stronger, moving out of such a range. So what we really need is a general strategy for getting and rettaining new players. One idea I’ve had is a new player workshop … presumably at the beginning of each fall term, on campus. I’m hopeful that this would draw more people to our meetings, but I’m skeptical that it will help at all with retention, which is the more significant problem.
We need to start thinking about this problem. I think a healthy club should have active members at many strength levels, and I honestly believe we can all learn from one another, regardless of our relative differences in experience. Moreovoer, several of our regulars are UCF students (including and especially Josh), and may very well not stay in Orlando once they’ve finished their degrees. We are doing quite well now, but I guess we have a year or two to address how we grow the group before the club starts sputtering.