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.