Keeping bridge alive: EBED’s partnership with The University of Stirling and a fascinating blog on learning the game

For several years, EBED (English Bridge and Development) has worked with The University of Stirling to carry out research into the health and wellbeing benefits of bridge.

Scotland international Samantha Punch is also Professor of Sociology at the university, and along with the research she has helped to support a new “intergenerational” university bridge club.


You can find out more about this research by following the link above. In the context of club membership development though, there are a few points worth highlighting.

First, this research is invaluable for marketing bridge locally. If you are approaching local press, for example, it adds weight and interest to your articles when you reference academic research in support of the claim that bridge is an asset to the community, particularly among the elderly (but also for people of any age).

Second, if you are making a grant application, the data from this research is worth mentioning. Grant committees love to have evidence for the community benefit of a project and it will help your application succeed.

What prompted this post though is to bring your attention to the associated Keep Bridge Alive blog:

As players we are aware that bridge is great for our well-being, for healthy ageing, and for social connection. However, we are failing to communicate and demonstrate these benefits beyond the bridge world in ways that entices others to join our bridge community. One of the problems is that not enough younger people are taking up the game, and we are all getting older. Hence, the time is right for us to develop research to address this issue of a declining bridge community.

Sociology is a way of exploring and understanding how society works. Thus, the Sociology of Bridge is about understanding how the bridge world works: what motivates players, opportunities for skill development and the dynamics of the game. By doing research which highlights the benefits and skills that playing bridge provides, we can develop an evidence base to persuade governments and employers to consider investing in introducing more bridge into schools, universities and local community projects.

Part of this study is being done by Kevin Judge, who is researching a sociology PhD on the game of bridge.  He himself is learning bridge for the first time and is writing blog posts about the experience.

It has been explained that the lessons are far more advanced than those experienced at a local club. The agreement by the mentors is to package a crash course on Bridge over an 8 week period. At this stage, terms and turns are spoken but the definitions are lost. It does feel overwhelming. It is the second week and a breakout group has formed for new players that have missed the first couple of sessions. The room settles as a briefing and a flipchart are used to demonstrate examples. I hear the names of Bridge theorists, or a particular Bridge approach associated to an individual, and it is completely lost on me. We race through the examples, and the feeling of being lost does not improve. I appreciate that we need to understand how to communicate, we need to, in a coded format, provide information to our partners. We are trying to convey information to our partners, while two other competitors oversee and eavesdrop our intentions. It is an awkward situation, learning a language of play that is coded in discretion and deceit, and specifically directed towards the correct table-member to interpret.

I found this fascinating as a perspective on how bridge can look to someone unfamiliar with the game. There is a lot to take in, especially if you come to the game without previous experience of card games. This is common for young people for whom games consoles and computers are more familiar; they may never have picked up a pack of cards.

Younger people do learn more quickly though, and bring a lot of fun and energy into their playing. 

On this site you will find more focus on bringing older people into the game, rather than younger. The reason is that this is what works for most bridge clubs. That said, it is obvious that for bridge to flourish long-term we have to get young people playing as well. Strategically, it is probably better to nurture school and university bridge clubs rather than attempt to get a lot of young members into existing clubs where many are retired; but do not let that stop you if you can make it work!

One thought on “Keeping bridge alive: EBED’s partnership with The University of Stirling and a fascinating blog on learning the game”

  1. Precisely the experience in my area, that the larger potential source of newcomers to the game can sometimes be found in U3A Bridge learner groups with time after retirement to take up new interests.
    Making that leap from social non competitive play to ‘Duplicate’ is however a big challenge, firstly in the minds of
    the players and secondly in meeting the needs and resource within a bridge Club, especially so in a smaller club.

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