TAMPA - The kids at Bryant Elementary weren't backing down from anyone.
The kids make up the chess team at Bryant, which battles some of the best private and public schools anywhere. Bryant usually comes out on top. They have plenty of trophies to prove it and earned their latest at the recent Hillsborough County tournament and became the first public school in the county to do so. They are headed off to the Super State All-Star chess event in Orlando this summer for the Florida Scholastics State Championships.
Most kids don't look at chess as exciting, but coach Willard Taylor found a way to make it exciting. He has made a game that most kids don't understand into a challenge that is a lot more fun than video games.
Third-grader Brandon Peckham is the top player on the team and, even though he enjoys soccer, chess is his game now.
"I didn't know any sports to play," Brandon said. "There's no place to play soccer in the fall, but then I found out that chess is something I liked and I could do real well."
The Bryant chess club spends its time practicing after school and started to win trophies almost as soon as they started. The kids who play for the team are all A students and simply enjoy the game, even though most of them had never heard of chess before they joined the Bryant team.
Brandon said he got his start playing his dad. He lost at first, but now he brags that he can beat his dad at the game anytime.
. "When he used to beat me I would throw a fit, but he doesn't beat me anymore," Brandon said.
Caleb Roberts was one of the stars of the Bryant team at the tournament. "It was very challenging," Caleb, a third-grader said. "I started in first-grade and it was just so interesting. I knew it was what I wanted to do because I got really good."
Third-grader Tyler King just wanted to be on a team at Bryant and he said he found the right team.
"It was fun and I liked competing against other kids," Tyler said. "I want to be a baseball player, but I like playing chess now. I have learned a lot."
The kids spent most of their off hours in Orlando still playing chess. Another tournament was in Tampa, so the kids didn't have to spend the night at the hotel, but they still got to compete in tag team chess and blitz chess, terms that aren't known to most people who don't follow the game, but terms that the kids are well aware of.
There's an old sports adage that goes, "if you want to be the best, you have to beat the best." It's an adage that a lot of local schools are going to be learning when they have to face Bryant.