Children and Bridge
an article by David Lusk
Contract bridge is a game which is enjoyed by players all over the world
from the age of eight or less up to one hundred or more. Amongst competitive
games, only chess can rival this game as one which appeals to such a broad
In recent years, bridge
administrators have put more effort into attracting young players into
the game. Younger bridge players is not a new concept: the vast majority
of Australia's most accomplished bridge players took their initial interest
in the game as teenagers. Junior Bridge Championships have been part of
the Australian bridge scene for over thirty years with players as young
as 13 representing their states and players as young as 15 or 16 competing
successfully in national youth events.
The Australian Bridge
Federation and its affiliated State Associations have the same commitment
to perpetuating the game as do administrators of chess, athletics, gymnastics
and the physical team sports. In order to be committed to such a promotion,
we have spent much effort in establishing that contract bridge as a leisure
activity is as beneficial as any of the physical sports.
In the 1970s, it was
widely believed that the future would yield up more leisure time for individuals
than had been the case in the past. In reality, the 1990s have revealed
that the reverse is more likely the case. It was common twenty years ago
for schools to develop enrichment programmes to offer students a wide
choice of activities to provide a host of options for the years ahead.
In some states, bridge has been virtually exclusive to private schools.
There are strong indications that this is about to change. These days,
the school curriculum appears to be too crowded to allow such luxuries
but many schools are reverting to finding spaces in their timetables in
recognition of the fact that leisure activities are even more important
in the modern, high stress working environment. We agree.
Bridge Be Regarded as an Idle Indulgence?
are many views about which leisure activities are suitable for young people.
Most judgements are based upon concepts of productivity within the framework
of Christian work ethics. Physical sports are automatically accepted because
we all understand the value of remaining physically fit and physically
active. Needless to say, playing cards appears to be idle and unproductive.
On the other hand, the medical profession is only now coming to realise
that, as people are tending to live longer, remaining mentally fit may
be as important as maintaining levels of physical fitness. More and more
often chess, bridge, backgammon and crossword puzzles are being cited
as excellent activities for keeping the brain exercised and stalling the
onset of Alzheimer's disease and other dementias.
Bridge a Game for Old People?
has never been the exclusive province of older groups. The bridge playing
population is skewed towards the older age group for the simple reason
that many players adopt the game as they head towards retirement and,
once retired, they have more time to play. Younger bridge players have
crowded schedules and much competition for their attention. Nevertheless,
over the last thirty years or so, thousands of teenagers have pursued
bridge as an interest which many of them have carried happily into middle-age.
The 1999 European Youth Championship attracted 372 participants, all of
them under the age of 26.
Young Bridge Players Become Addicted?
notion that teaching young people to play bridge will spawn a generation
of "bridge bums" is about as absurd as the notion that teaching youngsters
to play tennis will create a glut of professional tennis players on the
world circuit. Addiction to any stimulating activity is always possible
and it is no different with bridge. Our experiences suggest that any young
person who has a firm focus on succeeding with studies and a career will
work bridge into their schedules in the same way as any other sport or
hobby. The fact is that most of our young players who are or have been
students succeed in their studies and in their careers. Many players who
started as teenagers have qualified as doctors, lawyers, accountants,
teachers and other professions and have gone on to forge successful and
lucrative careers whilst remaining active bridge players.
There Other Tangible Benefits?
of Australia's top junior players recently stated that she has no trouble
concentrating on 3 and-a-half-hour exams because she has become accustomed
to sustaining those levels of focus over a standard bridge session of
identical duration. Some studies suggest that bridge players develop better
problem-solving skills and have lateral thinking skills beyond the ordinary.
is a social game. Unlike the physical sports and chess, where participants
need not interact at a social level with opponents, bridge players are
forced into social intercourse with partners and opponents alike during
the course of the game. Most young players participate against an older
age-group and gain benefits by developing effective and articulate communication
skills. Learning to participate and succeed in the company of mature adults
is beneficial in developing self-confidence and social skills.
with other sports, top players have the opportunity to represent Australia
on the international scene and do so with pride. Bridge is now recognised
by the IOC and is expected to be included in the 2002 Winter Olympics.
schools are now recognising the social and intellectual value of introducing
bridge to their students. In some cases, this is done as a co-curricular
activity, as part of leisure/enrichment programme or as a Mathematics
Extension, often, but not necessarily, for gifted students.
recent years, schools have been taking advantage of programmes, established
by local clubs and State Associations which provide the opportunity to
run short introductory courses on contract bridge, often at no cost to
the participants or the school.
1999, an Anglican Grammar School for girls in suburban Adelaide negotiated
with the South Australian Bridge Association to introduce every year 12
student to contract bridge. Each of the eighty-odd students undertook
three hours of instruction with a qualified teacher. The whole programme
cost the school nothing more than the expenses associated with getting
busloads of students the short distance from the school to the Association
are Your School's Options?
your school has students who are interested in learning to play bridge
or merit is seen in introducing the game into the school's curriculum,
then consultation with your local coordinator should be beneficial.
you have teachers with the opportunity and expertise to conduct such courses
within your school, then your State Association's Junior Coordinator will
be able to provide support advice and teaching materials to assist. If
there is no-one on your staff who is able to conduct such a course, then
your local association or club may be willing to provide an instructor.
Junior Coordinator, Australian Bridge Federation Inc.
6 Vincent Crt
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