3 things parents can learn watching the movie Searching for Bobby Fischer

This month we review a movie that’s been a long-time favourite of mine. Searching for Bobby Fischer (read the review here) is about a child, Josh, becoming a world-class chess player. In my practice as a sports psychology consultant, I often refer to the film because of the important lessons that can be learned from it.

1. Put away ego and strive for balance

The father, played by Joe Montegna, is an example of both what not to do, and what to do. Early in the movie, he is focused on his own ego and drives his son Josh to perform because he wants his son to be successful. Later in the movie, he starts listening to what his son wants to do. He becomes an enabler, not a dictator. He strives to bring balance to his son’s life even as his son proves to be a prodigy.

2. A good coach develops skills and encourages creativity

Two coaching perspectives are demonstrated, and together they make the perfect coach. Laurence Fishburne, the street chess player, represents the creative mentor. He inspires Josh to enjoy chess and become an inventive player. Ben Kingsley is the more traditional coach who instills the discipline and skills required for Josh to perform at a high level. Early in the film, the two ends of the coaching spectrum are opposed, but they come together in the end. And Josh’s ultimate victory comes because he’s been able to combine both skills and the creativity. This is one of the most illuminating part of the movie.

3. The way parents behave at competitions has an impact

The movie is also a great guide to how parents should behave at competitions. The full range of parental behaviours – good and bad – are on display in the competition scenes. See if you recognize yourself or someone else you know.

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