For the second time, Toronto is hosting the tournament that has become Mecca for bridge players 19 and younger. It’s 10th Youth NABC, and it’s just about certain to have record attendance.
Last summer in Washington DC, the number of young players jumped from 199 pre-registered to 233 total, a record.
Stephanie Threlkeld, ACBL’s education and communications manager, said pre-registration for the Toronto tournament was at 235 earlier this week and that there were several walk-ins for the opening day on Thursday.
“I’m really excited,” said Threlkeld, who will be working with Shaneka Cunningham, ACBL’s education program coordinator, to manage the tournament with the help of a legion of volunteers.
The two have have support from Toronto players Michael Yang and Carol Bongard, who serve as Youth NABC volunteer coordinators.
The two work together on the Unit 166 board of directors, Bongard as president. She says she likes working with youth programs so much because of her “grandma instinct.” She adds, “I love the kids.”
Bongard also credits Flo Belford for helping build youth participation in bridge. Belford organizes an annual youth section at the Toronto Regional. In the 15 years she has been doing it, she has had as many as 600 school children participate over two days at the regional.
Yang is another dynamo when it comes to promoting youth bridge. He started a youth bridge club in 2012 with players as young as 6 and up to 9. He took a group of them to the 2012 Youth NABC in Chicago and has attended every Youth NABC since then.
Yang’s philosophy is that “the younger they start the more attractive bridge is to them.” He says that as his youth bridge club has grown he has received more and more requests from parents for bridge classes for their children. He has helped set up youth bridge clubs in Waterloo, about 70 miles east of Toronto, and in Ottawa. He’s working on figuring out how to help a group in Vancouver BC establish their own youth bridge club.
He believes that teaching bridge to young people has helped his game, too, and there’s evidence that it has. Yang was on the team that finished second in the Grand National Teams Flight C this week representing District 2.
The tournament is fortunate to have three major sponsors: Baron Barclay Bridge Supply, which offers a $2000 scholarship to the winners of the Youth Open Pairs (each player receives $1000). Baron Barclay has also donated convention card holders and playing cards. John McAllister, the brains behind the documentary film Double Dummy, is sponsoring the National Youth Swiss Teams. Each of the four members of the winning team receive $1000 scholarships.