It is one thing to get people learning bridge and playing in gentle bridge sessions – but the next move, migrating players to full club sessions, can be particularly challenging.
Camberley bridge club had a bright idea. Why not run classes specifically aimed at this transition?
“Like all clubs we want to get new members to come and play at the club,” said club member Penny Moody. “We had people who said they’d like to come to the club but were worried about doing things wrong.”
The club decided to run classes specifically aimed at people who wanted to make this move, calling it a Transition Group. “I decided to put into the course the things that people were most bothered about. I didn’t intend to teach any bridge, but we did a tiny bit. But it was mainly on etiquette, pace of play, alerting, stop cards, announcing, calling the director, using the director, those sorts of things,” Penny explains.
The course was a sell-out. Penny felt 5 tables was the maximum and after 20 people signed up she started a waiting list. It shows that there are plenty of bridge players out there who want to make the move to club bridge but need some support.
Each session had a theme, and Penny used the sample hands and Hand Generator from the EBED (English Bridge and Education) teacher site. “That was brilliant because I could say, I want a hand that needs things that are going to have to be alerted, likely to have a stop card, and things like that,” she says.
The group was supported by other club members, who acted as mentors.
What was the hardest thing? “System cards. Why I thought I could look at system cards in one week I don’t know!” says Penny.
The courses were publicised mainly through word of mouth. A number of attendees were learning bridge through U3A (University of the Third Age), and UCA agreed to put something in their worksheet for the course.
“The whole group was about trying to get some confidence about playing in clubs,” says Penny. “Of the 20, I think at least 6 or 7 are now playing at the club.”
There is another 8-week Transition Group starting in September.
The Transition Group concept is a great idea for several reasons. One is that it sets up the expectation that members who complete the course will in fact move on to regular club sessions. Of course they will need support in doing so; clubs need to be accepting of novice players and show some common sense in welcoming them into what can at first be an intimidating environment.
The Transition Group is also a great place to demystify club sessions and answer questions that may worry people, such as what happens when the director is called.
Finally, making transition easy is not just a matter for those coming in. It is also something for directors and experienced players to take to heart, by making every club session one where those less confident will soon feel at ease.