Orlando–The Future of the Game
We all agree that the game of bridge need new, fresh, young blood. How to make that happen is the subject of much debate
In Orlando, Susan Rowley and her unit have found a way. They have two schools where bridge is an extracurricular activity, taught by the teachers and volunteers. All of the students are ACBL members. They play free at regionals and sectionals. The unit supports them in every way possible–providing boards, bid boxes, table cards, books, a $400 annual stipend to the teacher, volunteers to help, t-shirts, regional entries and plenty of pizza.
Saturday, there were 12 table of young people playing. They are from Bear Lake Elementary School and Teague Middle school, and have been playing as much as 2 years.
The students were quiet, serious, polite and ready to play good bridge. The adult teachers and volunteers were there to help with bidding and play problems–there are no director calls, just issues to sort out and handle.
Everyone was deep in thought, then a special visitor entered the room:
Yep, the Mouse himself came in, to polite pandemonium.
The kids played two (short) sessions, with a pizza party in between. There were goodie bags and prizes. Susan had arranged parking for all the parents, many of whom stayed the entire day.
The Orlando Unit youth bridge program is a huge success, with one school having a waiting list because they don’t have space for everyone who wants to join. The key seems to be to get a teacher from the school interested in leading it, rather than volunteers from the unit. The students, and the school staff, are then familiar with the leader and things go more smoothly and successfully. Then the unit has to support the program fully, inviting the students to sectionals and regionals and making the experience pleasant for them.
The Blue Ribbon Pairs and the Reisinger may seem like the big events at a NABC, but I’d argue that this little 12 table game of non-life masters was the most important thing that happened Saturday. Good work, Susan and Unit 240.