Bridge Drop-Outs Deserve a Second Chance

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July 21, 2014

I recently read of retention rates amongst those taking bridge lessons—adults and in young people’s bridge—from as low as 35% to as high as plus 60%. Which means a duplicate bridge drop-out rate of as many as 65% and as few as 40%. What a waste of potential bridge players!

For reasons both altruistic and self-serving, one of the things ACBL bridge club teachers could/should do is  give all those duplicate bridge drop-outs a second chance—teach them to play social bridge instead. On the side, for your usual fee of course, modified to fit the DNA of social players and, preferably (the way I see it) a foursome and in their homes.

Altruistically, offering bridge drop-outs a second chance is doing them a great favor—adding a wonderful lifelong skill to their quiver of resources for dealing with life long-term. And you’d be doing for bridge today what Culbertson and Goren did in the glory days of the game. Reaching out to a potential bridge-playing market that the ACBL does not serve.

As to the self-serving reasons—again, you’d be doing what Culbertson and Goren did decades ago, targeting a market where there’s money to be made. There’s nothing wrong with that.

Another reason to keep track of those duplicate bridge drop-outs and offer an alternative to dropping out is you’d be deflecting so much of the bad-mouthing the game gets from people who take up serious bridge and quit. I’ve been hearing them for all of the decades I’ve played bridge—even as many then took up social bridge and played for the rest of their lives.

For the ACBL it’s a Catch-22. “Contact the ACBL” for lessons says just about any article you read on learning to play bridge. Everyone, including the ACBL, knows from decades of experience even when playing bridge was a raging fad that those who will take up duplicate bridge and stick with it are always an elite minority. Therefore, bridge drop-outs, bridge bad-mouthing is inevitable—no matter how good that duplicate bridge teacher and yet the ACBL is powerless under its mandate, seemingly, to deal with that inevitability. Catch-22.

Back when I took up bridge, that power vacuum didn’t exist. Bridge drop-outs did get a second chance—neighborhood social bridge clubs were delighted to welcome them. You could go to adult ed programs at the local high school, take a few lessons and get started. Even certified Goren teachers, as I remember, were more entrepreneurial—not as tied to competitive ACBL clubs.

Today, unless the BTA (Bridge Teachers Association) is willing to step forward, newcomers to the game who start lessons with the ACBL mostly get just one chance to be turned into a lifetime bridge player or just another bridge drop-out. Drop-outs with battered egos from having failed at something they wanted to do—learn to play bridge.

That’s just not a good thing for the world of bridge!

Serious and Sociable players just need to accept the reality that the kind of bridge you play begins with your basic DNA. The mental challenge in playing sociable bridge is just as valid for those who choose it as competitive bridge is for serious players. There’s nothing whatever wrong with playing bridge for fun. Hard as it is for us sociables to imagine—serious duplicate players are having fun too!

More on this topic in my next blog.































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