First of all, for those who have no clue who I am ... My name is Bram Vandenbon. I live in Belgium (Go club of Brugge (Bruges)). I am about 20 years old. I learned Go when I was 6 or 7, and restarted playing Go when I was 18,5. So I am almost playing for 2 years now. At the moment I am writing this I am about 3k KGS/DGS. It is not like I know EVERYTHING about Belgian Go. In fact, I know hardly anything about it. The things I do know are mentioned here.
About 2 years ago, the Go club of Bruges was created. And the least I can say was "it has not always been a success". In the beginning we had company of other clubs (especially the one of Gent). So we had about 8 active players at that time. We had the feeling everything was going well. But when other clubs decided to let us go things started to luck ugly again. We had about 3-4 active members. Even once I was the only one showing up.
We tried to make other people interested and we looked hard for existing go players that simply didn´t know there was such an organisation. Regularly we had new members ... it was just a matter of keeping them. People came and went. And now we have about 8 active members.
To many European players this story will sound familiar. Every go-club has this problem. According to the website of the Belgian Go Federation we have about 200 players. These are divided over 12 clubs. If we take a look at big clubs like the one of Leuven: they have about 20 members. So being a new club, with a number of 8 active players we are not doing bad at all.
Why is the number of players that important? Actually the quality is more important. But the only way to get quality is by playing and studying regularly. At the moment our club only plays once/month. I am pretty sure they might have learned something at the end of the evening. But a month later they will hardly remember.
Imho a player that does not reach 10k withing the first 4 years will probably never reach 1d. (Of course there can be exceptions.) But those players are the foundation of a good club. It's important to have a wide range of all kind of ranks of players. You can't expect a 4d player to play newcomers constantly.
Of course this does not mean I do not like it when people improve, hehe. But that question is irrelevant, it is up to the players. They decide how serious they want to be about Go.
When I think about the future of Belgian Go I am uncertain. At the moment there are some really strong players like Jan Ramon, Alain Wettach and Jan Bogaerts. But I wonder where they will be in 20 years from now? The chances are small they will still be growing at that time. And some upcoming players like Nelis Vets will probably have passed them by then. I am determined to try my best and to earn a small spot in Belgian Go history :).
To finish off I would like you to visit the web page of Hasselt (and the one of Bruges too of course). Alexander Duytschaever is doing a great job, managing a club in Hasselt. And I wish him good luck.
Dieter: Hi, Bram. Sorry for intruding your page. I think that, in order for a club to last for some time, it needs some sort of untouchable identity. People have to feel that
In short, people will come to the club if they feel free to come, that they are welcome but that the club will thrive anyway. But how do you get there, with your club?
First, you obviously need someone of that rare category that comes to the club, no matter what (yourself). Second, you need to organize activities and continue organizing, no matter what (but continue the succesful activities first). Third, you have to communicate an image of success: keep people informed but do not harrass them. Fourth: look around you for succesful clubs and copy their approach.
In case of Belgium, Liège may be a fine example for you. How did they manage to become so large?
BramGo: Hi Dieter, It is always nice to get some comments. And you certainly have a good point there. Our local club is far from perfect. If our club would be bigger, it would make a big difference in several ways.
I took a look at the website of Liège, and was amazed. :) They have indeed a very big club. Any idea how long that club exists ?
Yesterday evening we had a go meeting at the club. And we decided to try playing 2 times/month. I assume this will have a positive influence on the size of our club.
Dieter: The Liège club exists as long as the Ghent one. 10 years (my God, that long?!). Ghent used to thrive as well, with 20 attendants as a memorable peak. If you want to continue discussing the good, the bad and the ugly ways to manage a club, you can mail me.
axd: How about discussing this on e-Belgo? I'm also interested, and I think other Belgian clubs are too. At the last meeting of the BGF, there were questions on how to bring out Go to the public (btw, there are interesting pointers here on SL as well, as on the AGA site).
uxs: E-belgo is in french, which I'm not exactly fluent in. And you need a yahoo-account, which I don't have.
axd: I don't agree. e-Belgo is addressed to Dutch and French readers, English is ok as well. And the yahoo account is only to register, from then on you receive posts in your own mailbox. I'm just not sure if you can also post to the group without using yahoo.
axd: Kris, get yourself on the list and check for yourself. But your remark might be an indication that this yahoo mailing list should be dropped in favor of some more "neutral" (in the "Belgian" sense ;-) ) mailing list. yahoo-related spam dangers might be another reason. Maybe you have a suggestion?
uxs: I think the frequent location switches of the Ghent club will have helped considerably in reducing attendance. And even though I have been at the current location only once, I don't think it's very good. I think we'd better move to somewhere more in the center, maybe to a meeting room in the Rotonde. True, we wouldn't have a lot of people passing and joining, but that never happened anyway.
Stefan: Hello Bram. As another old timer from Ghent (who temporarily switched to "Hopla" and diapers rather than hoshi and dango, but intends to make a comeback on the Belgian go scene some day), this to simply say "hi" and "hang in there". Running a club on the edge between life and death is nerve wracking, but the satisfaction once it finally has two eyes is all the greater.