Does Sports Programming Exist Beyond St. Petersburg?

My name is Alexander, and I’m currently enrolled in a Master’s program at ITMO University. Originally, I’m from Pskov, and completed by Bachelor’s in 2018 at Pskov State University. Five years ago I was seriously upset that I couldn't go to study in St. Petersburg. Studying in a large city is more interesting and gives more opportunities. Nevertheless, I was lucky!

Programmer’s day is celebrated on the 13 September and thematic events are held at my previous university every year. One of the events was recruitment to the university sports programming team, only two people including me showed up. I came just out of curiosity. We were sitting in a small room, thinking of unclear questions we were given and listening to professors' lamentations about the quality of modern students. However, we were eventually enrolled in the team. I had two trainers, each being good in their own way. Both of them could manifest themselves not only in programming but also in other technical sciences.

Unfortunately, because of different reasons during our third year there no trainings were provided and we decided to train on our own and invited freshmen who were keen to participate. As we had no idea how to teach others, our training process was hit and miss. However, step by step I became more and more experienced. One day I got noticed and was offered to get a group of high school kids prepared to take part in the town’s sports programming competition. I worked with teenagers and our age gap wasn’t big, so the atmosphere of our classes was friendly. We could spend days and hours coding, we had lunch together going to a cafe or ordering a pizza, we watched YouTube videos and short movies. I trained my first team several months before the competition, mostly during summer holidays. We were confident and goal-oriented and finally we won the second prize which was a great victory for the team and for me.

Unfortunately, the same knife cuts bread and fingers. The fact that I work with high school children means they spend only one or two years with me, then they leave for university. In my previous university I didn’t meet guys I worked with among students. It means they go to bigger cities. I had to constantly look for new students. It was difficult as we have to adapt to each other and good training takes time which we lack. Luckily, my other teams' achievements were higher.

For example, there is an opinion that it is impossible to teach programming to a woman however ITMO's pool of students shows the opposite. Once I had a team consisting of three girls and they were leaders throughout the competition and were beaten by another my team of three guys only in the very end, and they took the second prize. After that my teams represented our region in competitions in St. Petersburg.

Realising I’m short of time to make champions from my learners I inspire and motivate them to create their own projects and take part in various events in the field. We make simple games and neuro networks. One of my students went to give a talk in Latvia, another one made videos about the CPU and Memory.

While training and teaching children, I’ve had the chance to get to know other IT teachers. By bringing my teams to St. Petersburg I managed to make friends with our main competitors' trainer and I still owe him a hundred rubles for a pie he bought me at ITMO’s cafeteria. Despite many obstacles, and they are not always the question of money, in my region there are enthusiasts who do their best working with children.