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A Junior's Perspective on Promoting Bridge
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This is going to be long. But take five minutes to read and think it over. I hope this article might bring some new insight.

I'm going to say what I feel is the best way to promote youth bridge and how we should make bridge seem like based off of the discussions on http://bridgewinners.com/article/view/how-to-attract-youth-players/. Thanks to all who commented, and I felt I gained a lot of insight from the comments.

Let me begin by describing how I got into bridge through Silicon Valley Youth (SiVY) Bridge. SiVY hosts free casual duplicate bridge games that include pizza and cake. In the end, there is a prize for the winning pair. One Sunday afternoon, and I was at home with nothing to do. My mom saw a SiVY pizza party advertised on WeChat, and insisted I go, enticing me with the pizza. I figured, "Oh, bridge is for old people." But I went and was introduced to mini-bridge, which is declarer without any bidding, by Debbie Rosenberg and got hooked on the beauty and excitement of taking tricks and the social aspects. The rest is history.

Bridge is often taught as an eight week or longer course. This is absolutely silly. Many will not be willing to invest the time and give it a try. The SiVY pizza parties ran by SiVY are far better. Here’s why:

 

A) Pizza and cake. The perfect bait for youth.

B) Shorter time commitment. This is very important. Many more will try it once for three hours knowing they’ll at least be fed.

C) Initial Emphasis on cardplay (Mini-bridge). Bidding shouldn't be covered in depth in the beginning. Familiarity with play motivates the language of bidding. Initially bidding feels like memorization, like homework. Now, bidding is very interesting to me. Back then, it was just 1S = 13 points. It was rules, and it bored me.

In contrast, declarer play is much less about rule bound; you can immediately apply your ingenious and your puzzle solving skills. There is some sort of excitement you get from making a contract, some sort of power you feel as you play your cards.

 

The SiVY approach should go mainstream. This will cost but the expense is modest. If we all pitch in and repay the joy this game has given us, we can revive bridge again.

Addressing some previous comments:

           “Card play without bidding is playing a form of bridge. And, IMO, is not only the most fun way to learn the game, but also is the best gateway to seeing the intellectual challenge of the game .. which is what will begin to hook someone for a lifetime. The "aha moment" when one wins the first trick cheaply with KQ opposite Ax, and then later discovers how that play wasted the entry to a long suit establishable in the KQ hand ... that is what will keep folks interested once they have departed from the formal instruction.”What being the best way to (presumably initially) attract people to the game ... the answer depends upon the audience. I suspect most of us who are really "into" bridge probably underestimate the importance of the social part of the initial attraction. (edited slightly)

Beautifully said. I wholeheartedly agree with everything here, not least the social aspect.

Initially teach beginners only finessing and ruffing. I found it was very challenging learning all the safety plays and suit percentages. I persisted only on the bases of my initial joy. Don't make declarer play seem overly complex. Make beginners realize there is something to it, but if you over complicate it, they will give up trying. I was very put off by memorization. Suit combinations and safety plays bore me; it was something I had to memorize, like bidding.

Maybe I’m different from the majority of youth players. Personally, I think bridge should be advertised as a game of logic rather than a game of memorization. Maybe there are other youth players who delight in learning about suit combinations and things like that. I guess you just have to guess what the youth player would like, or knowing what your audience is like.

Echoing these thoughts:

        “I think to get people in the door, talking about how complicated the game is not the way to go. I think discussing the specifics of bidding as the first thing to teach falls into this category of complicatedness.

However, while the complicated stuff isn't what gets people in the door, it's certainly the draw to why people keep at it once they've grasped the basics. Bidding, declarer play and card combinations, defensive play, system design, duplicate scoring and tournaments are all awesome aspects that should at least be mentioned in passing—just not thrown on someone all at once.”

How important is technology?

        “You can't make Bridge attractive to young people unless you speak their language, which these days, is centered around technology. Just using cards won't be enough.”

People make the assumption that kids love technology. Thus, if bridge involves technology, then kids will love bridge and BBO is ideal. I don't believe this is true.

I believe kids are attracted to technology because it enabled them to connect socially with others.I love the social part of bridge. What almost killed my love for bridge was BBO; it made bridge feel robotic and disconnected. I lost the sense of excitement and euphoria. 20 point hands began to feel like 10 point hands. 5-5 shape felt like 4-3-3-3 shape. When I went to my first YNABC, I couldn’t stop shaking from excitement. I can’t explain it, but when you are playing with a partner you can see, with opponents who you can touch and talk to, when you can touch the cards and sort them, you get so much more joy out of it than from playing online.

I don’t think I’m alone. I know that the SiVY pizza parties were what got me hooked, and BBO was what almost killed the passion.

However, the point that using the internet and technology can be beneficial is still valid. And onto the next comment:

         “We are 165,000 strong. If every one of us, just once a day, makes it our business to be sure to say to someone, "I bet you'd like bridge," this would come to over 6,00,000 connections a year.

If just one of these connections out of a hundred results in a bridge member being created, this would bring in 60,000 new members the first year. Year two we'd have 60,000 more members singing our praises which would translate to an additional 80,000 members being created in year two.

Whenever we start a beginner's class we make sure to ask each student came to take a bridge course. A huge percent say, maybe not in these exact words, but close, "A friend said they'd bet I'd like bridge.

Word of mouth is very powerful. Our next CEO should be someone who could inspire our 165,000 members. Who could get them to want to make that one simple connection that will turn the tide completely around.”

My mom heard about SiVY from a friend. If her friend hadn’t said anything, I would never have started playing bridge.

How to advertise? Now that is where technology comes in. We need to use technology to our advantage when advertising. I found it surprising that there was no Facebook event created for the YNABC, so I created one myself. In addition to exploiting the internet, we need to show to everyone that we play bridge. For my school projects, I always did mine on bridge. In class presentations, I did mine on bridge. I became so known for bridge that people began making memes of me playing bridge.

Now, you don’t need to go as far as that. But letting others know you play can be very important in itself. Take this comment:

       “Any activity that hopes to survive needs a large penumbra of the less serious, the people who can follow a bridge / chess column in the newspaper, who interact with diverse groups rather than just other bridge players and say to others, "I bet you'd like bridge," or just mention they do the activity or that others they know do so that it seems like a normal thing to do, like say drinking coffee as adult.”

This especially applies to youth players. If you let everybody know you play bridge, even if you don’t actively try to convince someone to play, you might still make someone interested in learning more about this game which you love so much you were willing to miss a soccer game for a tournament. It is important that in case someone is interested, he should know someone who plays bridge and can help him learn more about it.

Competitiveness and opportunities:

Once a youth player gets into bridge, we must do everything we can to be able to fuel his passion. In my area, we have annual high school bridge championships. What this event does is it gives a sense of competitiveness to bridge. Many kids are attracted to competitiveness. Competitive events will give them a reason to practice. High school tournaments are great, as it makes youth players realize they are not the only people who play bridge. It is also more fun to play with peers than with adults.

Addition to hosting highschool tournaments, SiVY also has weekly Casual Fridays meant for juniors, who can play at an ACBL sanctioned club and have pizza, all for $4. To top that off, SiVY also gives $500 reimbursement to juniors who goes to the YNABC.

In conclusion, the key to promoting youth bridge is being more like SiVY and the Bay Area. If everybody encourages others, if everybody donates some, and if the clubs start to do events which the SiVY does, this would be a big step.

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