Josh Dobbs remembers when he was a kid, in first and second grade, going to chess club to play a game he loved. It brought him happiness and it also taught him lessons, ones he still uses today.
So when Dobbs was asked by Pittsburgh Police Officer David Shifren if he would like to share what he knows about the game, and the fun it can be, with local kids, he jumped at the chance.
Throughout the offseason Dobbs has been going to Carnegie Library in Hazelwood to visit with the kids taking part in the Pittsburgh Police Chess Club, teaching them not just about the game, but life in general.
“It’s been a blast,” said Dobbs. “I was in chess club. I remember those days, going to chess club after school, learning about chess and the mental approach that it takes to understand the board, understand your opponent, and be a successful chess player. To be able to go, show my chess experience and play against the kids, I enjoy it.
“The last time I went they had a young kid named Homer and they said he is really good at chess you should play him first. The first time I went, I beat everyone, I beat the kids, and I beat a couple of mentors. I was undefeated. I was feeling good about my game. This little seven year old came in and beat me in like 10 minutes. I think he wiped the board. After they said his dad is a professor at Carnegie Mellon and was a great player growing up and he is better than his dad. He is a chess protégé. It was a humbling experience.”
On Saturday Dobbs joined the group again, this time for Pittsburgh Police Department Jr. Chess Club tournament, which brought kids from all areas to Carnegie Library in Hazelwood to battle it out. Dobbs was there to provide encouragement to the kids and continue to be a positive role model in the community.
“It was a blast being a part of it,” said Dobbs. “I was the encourager. I was there cheering on my chess group. When the kids see me, it gives them a different appreciation for the game of chess. When I come in I am serious. At the quarterback position you are playing chess on the football field. I take that same approach. When they see my mindset, their approach changes sometimes. I teach them some strategy, what I know. They enjoy the experience and learn from it.
“I just try to be myself. Who am I not to give back? It’s cool to be seen as a role model, but that’s not how I look at myself. I am just being myself and sharing the knowledge I have and try to make their days better.”
“It means the world to have him involved,” said Officer Shifren. “He is such a wonderful representative of someone who is not just a gifted and accomplished professional athlete for the hometown team, but he is someone who has done spectacularly well academically. When he has visited, he said at one point to kids who play football, the thing you have to remember is work hard, no matter whether it’s sports or in the classroom. And hard work pays off. What he tells the kids couldn’t be scripted. And he is so personable. He gets along great with the kids. They loved having him here.”
Dobbs provided the funding for t-shirts for all of the kids participating in the tournament, as well as paying for the awards. It’s just his continued way of giving back and helping bridge the community, making them see that the police are there for them and care.
“You have to commend Officer Shifren for creating the chess club,” said Dobbs. “He is pouring into the youth on a direct level. The kids see what the police are doing. And sometimes the police get a bad connotation, but they are doing a lot of good to make the world a better place.”