A line of jumbled letters stands before them as their brains furiously try to decipher, reshuffle and figure out the best combinations possible to get their scores shooting through the roof.
This is the world of Scrabble and a few players took to the tables at the Swartklip Indoor Centre, in Tafelsig, a fortnight ago, as part of the Cape Town Games to pit their wits against one another.
One of those players, who has taken to coaching other children in the game she has come to love, is Sheridan Harley, 18, who first picked up the lettered tiles four years ago when she was introduced to the game on a competitive level.
“Around five years ago I started volunteering for the City of Cape Town hub in my area, where we introduce children to various games.
“Scrabble is one of about 13 games we use at the hub and it helps the children with their literacy.
“I was already familiar with the game as I played it on my phone so there weren’t any difficulties when it came to learning the board version.
“The main problem people have is knowing what words can be made with their tiles but we have a book that we use to teach them what some of their options are and that helps a lot.
“The event on Saturday was a compilation of the games we use at the hub, with the different districts coming together to play.
“It was great for us and we won for the second year in a row.
“This is a good way to motivate children to get involved with these types of games.
“We do promote the hub, especially during the holidays and put up posters to let them know what we are doing.
“One way that we have incorporated Scrabble off the board, is that we’ve made big A4 letters that we use in group-based games to get the children to learn how to use different words.
“I think to be a good Scrabble player your wordmaking needs to be good and you need to be able to think fast. It’s not just about making words, though, you also need to know how to use the board itself and how you can multiply scores and so on, so there’s a logic component to it too,” she said.
One person who will be particularly pleased to hear Sheridan’s enthusiasm for the game, is Gerald Davis, chairperson of Scrabble South Africa, who also heads up the provincial development of the game. His aim is to grow the sport at grassroots level so that children from across the city can find a love for the game that he himself acquired in the late 1980s.
“Saturday’s event at the Cape Town Games was an eye-opener for us to see how the game of Scrabble is being taught at the city hubs.
“We need to now make sure that we create a better understanding of the fundamentals and the more intricate dynamics of the game.
“We invited some of the children to come the SA national championships which took place at in Newlands, to see how the game is played at a more competitive level.
“This is also something that we want to reiterate, that this is a sport, a mind sport, that is organised and played competitively.”
* Contact Carol Parker at firstname.lastname@example.org or call her on 082 595 7368, Gerald Davids on 083 466 8378 or Gwen Rea on 084 352 24611 for more information about the sport.