The card game bridge is usually thought of as something for the older generations. But last month more than 200 talented kids from around the world came together to play the game and compete for scholarship money at the Youth National American Bridge Championships in Washington, D.C. The tournament is not awards-focused. Win or lose, these kids unite to play against each other and improve their game.
Speaking of the game, it goes like this: Bridge is played with a standard deck of cards, and has two parts to it — the bidding and the game play. There are four people playing at each table, and you play with a partner who sits directly across from you. I was in the middle of a very focused, yet friendly atmosphere, where occasional laughter accompanied the competitive energy.
Like other team sports, it is important to form a good partnership and work well with your teammate. “You can develop a really good partnership and friendship with a person through all of your wins and mistakes and your losses,” said Britt and Olivia D'Arezzo, a sister bridge team from Silicon Valley.
Throughout the day, I began to see the similarities that bridge shared with many sports such as basketball, tennis, and soccer. Not only do you need the same teamwork and sportsmanship, but bridge shares many of the same advantages and lessons. Although there is less physical work involved in bridge, the mental game is incredibly vital to success in both bridge and other sports. As Britt and Olivia also both told me, “If you do badly on a board, you have to reset your mind, go into the next one and play the next one. Don’t dwell on the board that you did badly on.” This lesson of clearing your mind and focusing on your next game has application even outside of sports.
While talking to players, I also realized the academic advantages of bridge. "Bridge has taught me to be more systematic and organized,” Snehal Oberai explained. These lessons that kids learn through bridge can help them in school. So playing bridge can be not just a hobby — it can also help you with math and other academic skills.
Other lessons can be taken from the game, as well. Tenth grader Cornelius Duffie is also a Silicon Valley native and was one of strongest players of the day. He told me that that bridge has taught him "to be willing to take risks.” It can also help people get out of their comfort zone by taking them to new places where they can sightsee, learn, and meet new people who share a love of bridge.
Like many sports competitions, bridge has provided many kids with new insights and experiences. It was wonderful to be able to spend the day with so many young people who have found joy and learning through this card game.
Photos: Francesca Canali