Bridge is alive and well…with the potential to reach new heights in the future.
My travels this year have taken me all over North America…to clubs, Sectionals, Regionals and NABCs. I have interacted with local bridge organizers, club managers, software developers, journalists and players at every level and age. I have seen an enthusiasm for bridge everywhere.
The enthusiasm of our players was no more apparent to my wife, Beverly, and me than in our recent bridge trip to Florida. We visited and honored three of Florida’s 250 bridge clubs … Jourdan’s of Boca Raton, the Fort Lauderdale Bridge Club and McGregor Point Bridge Club of Fort Meyers…as well as the Marco Island Regional. Throughout our trip we greeted and interacted with so many cheerful players…yes, mostly older players…whose lives center around bridge. Bridge is truly a social game for retirees looking to keep mentally stimulated.
Then there are the professional players, teachers, journalists, writers, publishers, club owners, software developers and promoters, all “working” at the game they love.
No group exhibits more devotion than the thousands of local volunteers who serve on the 310 Unit and 25 District Boards, as well as the hundreds of volunteer from the “expert” community who lecture and serve on advisory committees. Read my July Message, where I refer to the heart of the ACBL. So many dedicated volunteers…it says a great deal about what our game has to offer. Our volunteer system is unique in world bridge and one of the reasons that bridge in North American services its players so well.
Successful bridge clubs are one of the keys to bridge’s growth. All new players are developed at the club level, and almost all our members play at the club level compared to only 25% of our members who play at Regionals and NABCs. Many successful bridge clubs have enterprising owners and managers. For example, Rick Colvalciuc, co-owner of the McGregor Point BC is one of many club owners who has succeeded in obtaining local and regional sponsors. The sponsors’ contributions are passed on to the players in the form of free meals, show tickets, etc. There are many membership owned clubs, non more enterprising than the Fort Lauderdale BC. The relationship between this 800-members club and the city of Fort Lauderdale is a model for other communities to emulate. The membership built a club on city park property and leases it back for $1/year. This has led to a sound financial picture allowing its members to enjoy many festive activities and to contribute to many charities.
The ACBL helps the growth of bridge in many ways.
Our TAP program has helped to develop some of the thousands of bridge teachers who develop our players’ skills and bring new players into our game.
We have a presence on the Internet with a newly designed acbl.org website soon to be released and over 125,000 sanctioned tables of online play at acbl-online, a partner of e-bridge.
The ACBL has an active school program, supplying bridge material and paying teachers to teach in over 250 school classes throughout North America. Over 4,000 youngsters have taken lessons this year. The success of this program will go a long way to guaranteeing our future growth.
We support our 3,300 bridge clubs. I have heard many compliments from club owners for the help given them by the ACBL Club Department headed by Carol Robertson.
We help our local organizations successfully run its 100+ Regional and 1,000+ Sectional tournaments. Attendance has been on the rise for the past three years.
Yes…bridge is alive and well, but how do we grow the game further?
With the ACBL is in excellent financial shape the Board of Directors is continuing its policy of investing in the future by directing funds to services and marketing. Our CEO, Jay Baum, and his able management team, continue to improve services to our players. Currently they are developing programs to market and promote our game in schools and elsewhere. The success of these programs will go a long way to bringing bridge to the masses.
The magic in our game, which has thrilled so many, does have the potential to capture the masses. Bill Gates and Warren Buffet think that everyone should be playing our game…what an endorsement!