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The Next Generation – We are Listening!

by Peggy Kaplan

At the Spring NABC in Memphis, the ACBL celebrated its 75th anniversary. For three quarters of a century, bridge players have been enjoying duplicate, tournaments, the quest for masterpoints and much more.

In these 75 years, the bridge scene has changed dramatically. Most of those changes have been positive and exciting. Yet, one challenge for bridge has been introducing our game to young people. With a myriad of activities available to youth today, bridge is no longer a “must learn” activity, as it was for so many in earlier times.

Nevertheless, the ACBL is committed to working with the next generation of bridge players. On the first Saturday in Memphis, the League hosted a Junior seminar that was unlike previous similar gatherings. At this meeting, ACBL staff, directors and teachers wanted to listen and learn.

ACBL CEO Robert Hartman welcomed our young players. Then, Robert encouraged them to speak frankly and honestly about their perceptions. Joel Woolridge, one of today’s elite professionals who began playing at age 9 with his folks, kicked off the discussion. Joel talked about his entry into bridge and how the game became his passion. He added additional thoughts about how the game could be made more attractive to kids – and how his own bridge career has progressed.

Director Phyllis Harlan, chairperson of the Junior task force, reiterated the ACBL’s desire to find out what young people want, like and dislike - along with a request for those present to share their ideas. Active junior players, such as Adam Kaplan, Corey Forbis and others did just that. Additionally, teachers that work with younger players, such as Patty Tucker and Donna Compton, shared their thoughts and experiences.

The quest for knowledge and ideas – and a new generation of bridge players – does not stop at our last NABC! We encourage all who wish to pass on their love of bridge to junior and youth players to get in touch with their District director, the Junior task force and bridge teachers. In addition, we hope that our younger players who are already “hooked” will continue to express their opinions as how to market our great game to their peers.

Thanks to all who wish to make the next 75 as thrilling and fun as the first for future generations!