The England U16 squad has started its build up for the 2018 World Youth Team Championships, and a few weeks ago got together in London for a training weekend.
Squad leader Giorgio Provenza has written this, the first in a series of blogs which will keep you updated as the squad continues its preparations ahead of its trip to China in August.
"On the 18th and 19th of November, the Young Chelsea Bridge Club in London hosted the first training weekend of the U16 squad under my tenure. First of all, I would like to say that since my appointment just a few weeks ago, I have been inundated by offers for help. There is a great degree of enthusiasm around all the Junior teams and many people – bridge players and not, on this side of the Atlantic and across the pond – have volunteered to help in any way they can. This display of generosity has been overwhelming. It would be too long to list everyone; I will make an exception though: Leigh Harding – the mind and soul behind the No Fear Bridge website – has offered free membership of her website and access to all its resources to all members and coaches of the U16!
The coaches. Alongside myself in this exciting journey, the coaching team will count on the talents of three other people. Firstly, Alan Shillitoe, the veteran of the team. The official job description says that he is my 'assistant', the truth is that he is mentoring me in my new role every step of the way. Then Laura Porro and Meena Samani, two very experienced teachers who have enthusiastically agreed to bring their knowledge to help make the team stronger.
And then there are the kids. Over the two days 15 of the most talented girls and boys from all over the country, aged between 11 and 15 (we also had a 'special guest' as young as 9), took part in the various activities. Whether it was card combinations, opening leads, counting in defence or postmortem analysis, everyone brought their contribution. We played a lot of hands, we all had fun and we all learned a lot, including myself (ever heard of Pascal's triangle?).
Also, the kids brought to my knowledge some of the proposed changes to the rules of the game that the WBF is bringing forward and they wanted to try them out. Apparently, bidding boxes will very soon be equipped with only one pass card, so you cannot pass more than once in any given auction... You guessed it, there was a lot of bidding. A gem from the event: you hold xx Kxx xx Kxxxxx, everyone red, IMPs scoring. RHO opens 1S, your bid? Your standard 4C overcall, I am sure! But, what do I know? Partner has 20 points and 5 clubs and guesses to bid only 5C, the par of the hand!"
Thanks to No Fear Bridge for their support of the U16s through the donation of free membership to their website to all the squad and coaches.
As noted in this article, we'd be delighted to hear from any members who would like to support the teams in any way - please don't hesitate to contact us.