Bridge: Know How The Game Is A Lifetime Sport

Bridge: Know How The Game Is A Lifetime Sport

More awareness, better understanding and wider learning opportunities across key age groups can bring in both quantity and quality, in time to follow

Arvind VaidyaUpdated: Saturday, January 20, 2024, 10:22 PM IST
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One observation or comment often heard about bridge is that it is a game for old people! While this is not untrue, it is only a half truth. Bridge has this unique feature that bridge player has no retirement age, unlike all other games. Even chess, the popular indoor mind sport, cannot be played effectively beyond certain age. But bridge players can compete even at world level at seriously advanced age too. In fact, this tag of ‘old people’s game’ should be the USP of bridge and it will help if promoters and administrators of this game leverage this unique feature of bridge as being ‘a game for lifelong’.

Of course, the ‘Catch Them Young’ theme applies to bridge too. The younger you learn, the longer you enjoy playing bridge. Concerted efforts are being made to popularise bridge amongst kids and juniors/youth. This age group range is 10 years to 25 years. In fact, the world youth championships held every two years has got four age group events – U-16, U-21, U-26, and U-31.

Introduction of bridge in schools is one way forward. Junior colleges can be another key target audience. In a few countries, this mission has been reasonably successful while in a few others, it is still a challenge. In India, there have been hurdles and some mental blocks. While parents may be card game players themselves, they are still hesitant to let their kids play bridge. The main hurdle is the instrument of bridge – the cards! Holding and playing cards physically is considered a non-serious activity, a taboo even. Its age-old association with gambling or addiction is a stumbling block for popularising bridge which is all but gambling. It’s a serious sport. One good thing is that bridge can be learned and played online also, which gets rid of holding cards. This can be turned into an advantage at the learning stage.

There is another very important segment in my opinion – the age group of 26 to 46. Let us go a few steps back. What typically happens is that Indian youth are immersed in academics post age of 16 and then usher into a job or some career path around age of 21/22. Thereafter, they can start find some time to learn and play bridge. If they cannot do much offline still, the online options can certainly help them play occasionally. However, as they grow older and settle in life, they can allocate more time for learning and pursuing bridge. They have still many years ahead of them to play and enjoy. Therefore, I believe, that this age group of Indian population is a huge target audience in terms of the quantum and quality both. Learning program, tools and facilities should be designed to focus on developing this segment.

What about the financial support and prospects for bridge playing youngsters? For starters, at the sub junior and junior level, the bridge federation and its state, and city level associations can support kids and other juniors towards learning and playing. When it comes to junior camps and tournament participation, funding is available from the sports ministry and SAI. There are a few job opportunities in public sector giants like Indian Railways, Income Tax, and Oil companies, to name a few. There are private and corporate sponsors too. Good, talented youngsters can receive sponsorship from them. Representing India till U-31 age group, can be a great motivation and attraction for the youngsters.

Once a bridge player, always a bridge player! More awareness, better understanding and wider learning opportunities across key age groups can bring in both quantity and quality, in time to follow. The bottom line is that bridge is truly a sport for a lifetime! Learn ASAP and have it with you forever.

(The writer is a National Championships winner, advanced Life Master rank holder, and bridge teacher. You can reach out to him on arvindv22@gmail.com)

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