When we surveyed clubs in July, “more resources for marketing to non-players” was listed as a top necessity for the ACBL Marketing Department to provide. Unfortunately all the clip art and templates in the world won’t help grow membership within your club, unit or district without a proper beginner education program.
Numerous bridge clubs do an excellent job developing beginner bridge players. To gain some insight, we spoke with Jeff Bayone, co-president of Honors Bridge Club in New York City. Honors is the ACBL’s largest physical sanctioned club. Here are some things Honors does and suggestions for how your club could do the same:
Develop a teaching staff. Honors has 20 teachers on their roster who provide weekly Beginner I-IV and Intermediate I-IV education. Each course is six weeks long, with four to five students per class, and they begin continually throughout the year. If your market isn’t the size of New York City, aim to have two regular bridge instructors at your club. One can be responsible for Beginner courses, and the other can be responsible for Intermediate/Advanced instruction.
Incorporate supervised play (BridgePlus+). When asked how important this concept was to his success, Jeff quickly answered, “invaluable.” With the purchase of every course ($199 for six classes), the student also receives two vouchers for a game with supervised play, which the club hosts several times a week. These games are shorter, run by teachers, award masterpoints and offer a low-key environment. Consider hosting a BridgePlus+ game at your club at a frequency that makes sense for your size.
Track your students’ success. Honors keeps very good records on all its students. When a student attends class or uses their free supervised play, it is noted in their customer management system. This allows Jeff to check in with students monthly and give encouragement when it’s needed most.
Create a mentor program. Jeff has three players, two of whom have recently completed the Beginner and Intermediate program, who serve as mentors to Honors’ developing players. Each week they make themselves available for tutoring at the club and are a great resource for players who have fallen behind in class or need additional reinforcement on a particular lesson. If you want to create a similar program, the ACBL has a Bridge Mentoring Program handbook available for download in the Resource Center.
Zero Tolerance bid box card – Designed to be placed between the Stop and Alert cards, these bid box cards can help you promote Zero Tolerance in your club.