I will be writing on this site about ways in which clubs can become more attractive to new members. This is another aspect of membership development, which is not just about getting someone to visit for the first time, but also about making a club a great place to enjoy a session of bridge.
Today the topic is directing. Although not directly related to membership, there is probably nobody more important than the director for making everyone feel at home and that the club is friendly and well run.
I am not going to pretend this is easy, but in the perfect bridge club it is no burden to call the director, because you know they will do all they can to be helpful and resolve issues with fairness and sensitivity, listening carefully to both sides if there is a disagreement, being well informed in terms of the rules of the game, and having abundant common sense, knowing when to apply the laws with rigour and when to make allowance for issues of health, circumstance or novice players.
Of course there is more to directing than being called to the table. In fact, summoning the director is relatively rare in my experience, and in many sessions does not happen at all. The director also does a lot to set the pace of play, ensure a quiet environment, and make sure that players of all standards feel welcome.
In an ideal club, there is a mutual respect between the director and the club members. The director knows they are there to help members have a lovely bridge session, not to bark at them or make them feel guilty for small infractions. Equally, the members do their best to follow the director’s guidance, to respect the decisions the director makes, and to remember that the director is a volunteer who may occasionally get things wrong.
The director’s opening remarks do a lot to set the tone. Visitors are welcomed by name. Successes are celebrated, but notices are brief and the focus is on getting play under way promptly.
Now there is a tricky issue here, which is what a director should do when a player has correctly pointed out an infraction that merits a ruling such as a score adjustment, but on the other hand the person committing the infraction is a novice or someone easily confused, while the person calling is a capable and experienced player who generally scores near the top.
The English Bridge Union regulates the game in England and part of that role is to ensure as far as possible that bridge is played by the rules, which are carefully set out in the laws of bridge and supplemented by EBU-specific regulations and guidance.
The most important thing is that the director sets the right tone. Perhaps there was a hesitation, an incorrect explanation in the bidding, or a revoke. We all make mistakes and the director is there to put things right so that the there is no disadvantage to the pair that did not commit an infraction. In cases where there is an imbalance of skills as described above, the director must make the correct ruling, but in a manner that is highly sensitive or even apologetic to the person who made the error. “I am sorry because I know you did not intend to misplay, but the rules of the game require me to adjust the score.” There should not be anything in the director’s manner that suggests unfriendliness.
Equally, it is not wrong to encourage a culture within a club where members are encouraged to make allowance for one another and not to take advantage inappropriately. This is a difficult judgement and may go against our competitive spirit on occasion; but what is more important, your score on one board,or the reputation and atmosphere at the club being friendly and welcoming?