This time last year I penned an article in Club Focus entitled Midsummer Madness. It is possible that some readers will recall that I explained how we at Meon Bridge Club had followed through the EBU teaching initiative from the summer of 2010 up to January 2012. Although I did not express it this way at the time we did wonder whether we were then at the end of the beginning or the beginning of the end ! In a process which evolves daily we still wonder the same thing and I will explain why.
Last January I had just begun to teach my second batch of beginners at home and we were about to embark on a way of continuing to develop and assist those from the Class of 2011 who had undergone a year of teaching and could be regarded as improvers. I am sure that Meon has not been the only bridge club to try to work out how we could make progress and I am equally sure that what we have done is neither unique nor the only way but it may be of interest for you to read what we have done.
One of the objectives both of Meon and the EBU was to bring new players into the game and, specifically in our case, into our bridge club which in January 2012 had a cosy membership of about 55 and regularly played about 7 tables on a Wednesday afternoon. We knew that our new players would not find it comfortable to dive straight into competitive Wednesday bridge and that we had to find a way to keep them encouraged and to improve their play.
To this end, from February last year we started a separate playing session on a Monday afternoon which initially comprised the original teaching group and some friends of similar ability with whom they had begun to play regularly on a domestic level. To assist in their development Wednesday players gave their time voluntarily each Monday afternoon to supervise the play giving advice as and when needed and introducing them to the pleasures ( and probably pains ) of duplicate play.
In the background for most of our members but of prime importance to everyone was the consideration of how we should regulate and co-ordinate the two Club playing sections. This was not easy. There were many discussions within the Club committee, with a sub-committee of Monday players and, on occasions, with the EBU. It was concluded that all players should be full Club members with equal voting and other rights. However we wanted to be sure that the Monday session remained only for the improvers and recognised that this may be especially important once Masterpoints came to be awarded on a Monday. We also wanted to ensure that any new players wishing to attend on Mondays were at the improver level and, very importantly, that those Monday players who wished to graduate to Wednesdays could do so easily. To do this a set of Rules had to be put in place by the Committee. That these rules were readily accepted within the Club is a credit to the open-mindedness and friendliness of all of the Club members and the rules remain pretty much as originally prepared and seem to have achieved what we needed.
On the practical side of things the majority of the 2012 teaching class moved straight into Monday play on completion of their course in May and the Monday sessions continued under supervision with gradually increasing numbers and with scored sessions from about July. By then a decision had been made to devote 10 weeks from October to a further teaching course for all Monday members. So popular had Monday play become by then that we decided temporarily to close off membership at 38 for Mondays a majority of whom were playing each week.
The October course covered topics from Transfers, to Michaels, to Losing Trick Count and 34 players subscribed to the whole course with the others attending occasional seminars when time permitted. With one hour of teaching followed by set hands, a hand analysis and a hand-out the players were under a lot of pressure (and so was the teacher!). As was typical of this group, self-help came to the front and at least one and often two sessions were arranged domestically each week with that weeks seminar topic to the fore with some even arranging a separate revision session on the same topic in the same week. It will surprise no-one that the series of seminars came to an end with the Xmas party with liberal quantities of revivers!
Now we are into the New Year. Membership has re-opened, supervised and scored duplicate sessions (now with Masterpoints) are alternated with every fifth Monday being a mixed session of Monday and Wednesday players, about 10 of the Monday players have played on a Wednesday, many with some success and we have recently elected 3 Monday players on to the Clubs committee.
In all of this the Club has very much to thank its members for, and especially a number of dynamic Monday players. This truly is the winter of our content!
All of this said we are still very much a work in progress and we watch and plan on a daily basis. It will be another interesting year and there may well be another article in it!
Read Midsomer Madness from Spring 2012, here