Supporting youth bridge: what can clubs do, and a new initiative in London

In talking to bridge clubs about the demographic issues facing our game, I am often asked what we are doing to help more young people benefit from the fun and challenge of bridge.

Our message to clubs in general is to focus on an older age group, for two reasons. One is that the older group is more responsive to bridge in general, so marketing campaigns aimed at them are more rewarding. Second, in some cases there is a bit of a cultural (and timing) mismatch between a typical bridge club and someone of school age or a student. We think it may be better to form new clubs for young people – though this is not always the case, and if you are a bridge club which is successfully attracting players both young and old, that is fantastic and keep going!

It may not be easy though, and we also know that you cannot just march into a school, college or university and set up bridge classes. It is a cooperative effort and you need to get everything right, from safeguarding policies to the right way of teaching the game (or perhaps MiniBridge).

Where people have the enthusiasm and have put in the necessary hard work, there are great results. Young people who learn to play love the game, and there are also plenty of opportunities to compete at every level form local to international.

If this is something you want to support, but you do not know much about it, check out the EBED Youth page. This includes a Youth Handbook which distils a lot of information, wisdom and experience into a 10 page booklet that sets out what you can do, with links for more information.

The Young Chelsea Bridge Club in London has come up with another idea, which is to offer to teach bridge to every student who cares to sign up. There is a pilot project to teach bridge to chess players and you can find more information here. We wish them every success.


Hello, I want to learn to play bridge. Can you help?

Someone contacts your bridge club and says, “I want to learn to play bridge”. What answer do they get?

The EBU’s membership development efforts are largely focused on supporting clubs in getting new members by teaching bridge to newcomers. This is the only method that works to keep the game thriving. Therefore when someone contacts a club and says that they want to learn the game, this is something that is most welcome.

Having the right response ready though is not trivial. What you would like to say is, “Thanks for calling, that is fantastic news and I am sure you will enjoy learning. We have a class starting in two weeks time, can you make Tuesday evenings?”

Unfortunately not all clubs are in a position to give that kind of answer. Running bridge classes takes considerable investment of time and energy, and you have to have one or more teachers, premises to teach in, and an ongoing plan to take students into supervised bridge and then into full club sessions. Some will drop out along the way.

I am sure all enquirers to any of our clubs get a friendly response. But in some cases it might be less than ideal. For example:

  • “No we don’t teach bridge. I think there might be some classes in [another town]”
  • “Thanks for calling. Wait a moment … I’ve looked online and there are 10 bridge teachers in your area, can I send you the link?”
  • “Great that you want to learn bridge. I know [some name] does teaching, I’ll give you the number.”
  • “Let me take your number. We’re not teaching at the moment but if we do in future I’ll be sure to call you.”

The lack of a good response may have several outcomes:

  • The person may give up and not learn bridge after all
  • The person may end up finding a teacher who is not of a high standard
  • The person may find a teacher who is not linked to an EBU club – not so bad in that they do learn bridge, but no immediate benefit to clubs which need new members

I must add that we know of many clubs which do a wonderful job of teaching and welcoming new members so the above is not in any way meant as a criticism. Rather, it is a reflection of the fact that not all clubs are equipped to teach and that the resources we have for putting enquirers in touch with the right bridge teacher are perhaps not as good as they should be.

What can we do? First, we want to encourage all EBU clubs to be teaching clubs, either on their own, or in combination with other local clubs. It is not necessary always to have a course about to start. People are usually happy to wait. Even if you run courses just once a year, that is not a bad answer. “We have a course staring next September” is a great deal better than having nothing to offer.

There are many excellent bridge teachers but we think clubs have a key role alongside teachers, the simple reason being that we think an EBU duplicate bridge club is the best place to play bridge. If the club is at the centre of the teaching process, the newcomer is much more likely to end up playing at the club, than if they are directed to an external teacher.

Can the EBU do more to support clubs in this important matter? I think we can, along with our colleagues at English Bridge Education and Development (EBED). We are certainly open to suggestions about this so please do get in touch.

Finally, if you are reading this and want to learn bridge, feel free to contact me or give us a call! We will do our very best to help you get started.