Join Bridge Winners
A different focus

"Clubs are the life blood of the ACBL". I see that line every few months in the bulletin and I believe it. But 750 ACBL clubs have folded in the past two decades. 125 in just the past two years.

What is the life blood of the clubs?

With an aging population, it certainly isn't their open duplicate games. Small clubs are dying all over the country. No new players and an aging base are a powerful one-two punch.

One problem is, start to finish, it takes years to create and fill seats in a club's open duplicate game. Years. Many clubs, knowing this, basically give up, accept the inevitable, and simply run out the clock, growing smaller and smaller each year. 

Starting a teaching program with the goal of building your duplicates is a noble idea. Only a small percentage of clubs do. That's because it all seems so utterly hopeless. Students come in drips and drags. You knock your brains out teaching, knowing full well that most will never make it to duplicate. Generously, the percentage that do is under 5%. So say you start two three-table classes a year. Expect maybe one person, two to three or more years later becoming a regular player in your game. And what if she's an only once a week player? 

That's the reality in all but the retirement areas of the country where people NEED to learn bridge to become part of their new community. 

What's good for the ACBL may not be good for your club.

Honors has lost 10% of its duplicate table count in the past few years. So have other clubs in the tri-state area. Yet, in that same period, we've actually grown in size by 10%. More, if you count non-bridge tables.

What is the life blood of clubs? It is their non-duplicate areas. Lessons, practice sessions, social games, wine and cheese nights with guest speakers, all with a  dedicated core of volunteers helping out in all these areas. 

Three years ago we changed the focus of our teaching program. From that point on, success was to be measured by the number of social bridge players we created. Boy did that ever improve our success rate. Our social games jumped from about a dozen tables a week, to where they are today, in the mid seventies. That's 3,000 tables a year. That's a ton of income to the club. Just as important is that these social sessions provide fun, safe environments for players to develop and to develop partners.

How's this? Next week we will be introducing a third weekly novice DUPLICATE game. Since we took the focus off creating duplicate players, we actually have begun creating more of them than ever before. It's a simple progression: Classes, practice sessions, social sessions, duplicate games. 

My advice, focus on social bridge and your duplicate games will be the better for it.

Anyone out there with a similar story? 

My next post will describe how we went about building this huge program from scratch. If you've built one yourself, I'm all ears.

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