Chairman’s blog March 2018 - Robert Procter
You may have seen in the recent Management Committee minutes that we need to find some new officers to appoint at the forthcoming AGM on June 1. Personally I have decided that seven years is long enough to be your chairman, particularly as this last year has been without the services of a secretary, and others have indicated that they are standing down too. So please don’t be shy - step up and take your turn in one of the roles that are likely to be vacant - chair, vice-chair, secretary, education officer…..
Part of the reason for my own decision is that dealing with administration issues has tended to take up a lot of time that I would prefer to spend promoting and organising new bridge activity.
Nevertheless I am keen to continue working for the county in four particular areas:
- Helping to run social bridge events such as the festival aimed at encouraging members and non-members to get together for the enjoyment of bridge;
- Working with other members of the county squad to provide learning opportunities for less experienced players (which incidentally can provide finance for the county team without the need for its costs to be met out of Pay To Play);
- Working with the Midlands Counties Working Group to support the Board of the EBU in seeking continually to improve its service to bridge players;
- And in this context working on how we widen the appeal of the EBU so that people that are currently not members and clubs that are currently not affiliated will wish to join the game’s national body;
and I hope to find myself a place on the new committee to continue with these tasks.
I would like to thank everyone who has supported me in my role over the past seven years - you know who you are and I really appreciated your help.
This is a picture of your chairman looking to recruit a new secretary in 2016. It is now 2018 and he is two years older but looking for a new county secretary again. Help!
I would like to wish all Oxfordshire bridge players a very happy new year for 2018 - new blog coming soon
Chairman’s blog December 2017 - Robert Procter
I have recently written to all Oxfordshire club chairs:
• to ask for help to find a new county secretary
• to set up a club chairs conference early in 2018
• to give advice on safeguarding children and vulnerable adults
• to encourage clubs to ask for the county’s financial support for their promotional activities
• to invite clubs to help fund-raise for our England juniors going to China next August
• to encourage people who play in our clubs to ensure their Universal Membership contributions (P2P) go to Oxfordshire by choosing Oxfordshire as their county of primary allegiance.
I hope the club chairs will respond positively on these matters as we have the same members and we need to work together. It is easy to see the importance of EBU, county and clubs working together to promote bridge but sometimes difficult to coordinate that work. For example I hear criticism of both EBU and county that they are too much focussed on high-level competition - but if that is what we think, remember that it is up to us, the members of clubs, county and EBU, to bring about a change.
Recently I have visited a few of the 27+ unaffiliated clubs in Oxfordshire (and bear in mind there are only 21 affiliated ones). I see from at least one of their websites that they proclaim, apparently proudly, that they are not affiliated to the EBU. So why are they proud of that? One person who plays at both affiliated and unaffiliated clubs characterised the former as “serious” and the latter as “friendly”. But all our affiliated clubs would like to be seen as “friendly” even if the bridge is taken seriously. Are serious and friendly bridge mutually incompatible? I sincerely hope not.
Is it as simple as competitive players becoming more aware of the social needs of many of our players and vice versa? Certainly the EBU, county and clubs need to provide a spread of bridge opportunities from the seriously competitive to the primarily social with appropriate pricing across the range. The hugely positive feedback we received from participants in our recent festival shows the marketability of the latter to members of both affiliated and unaffiliated clubs. The county will be running more social bridge events in 2018 including another festival.
Our game should be just as much for those concerned with their NGS grade and master point ranking as for those who play for the friendship and social company.
Chairman’s blog October 2016 - Robert Procter.
I apologise for not writing a blog for so long - not since last Christmas - and it is not as though nothing has been happening.
10.1 First of all a quick review of the events of the past nine months:
- Our County C Team did us proud, winning the Markham Trophy for the Midlands Inter-County C Team League and finishing second in the National play-off between the six regional winners.
- At the AGM we voted in a new Education Officer, so we welcome Alison Nicolson back to the Management Committee (MC). However we failed to find a secretary and David Bygott had to be persuaded to continue as Publicity Officer pending finding someone else.
- Also at the AGM, The Oxford Bridge Club put forward some ideas as to how the county could give more financial support to promoting the game in Oxfordshire. This has subsequently been discussed at MC and a budget has been given to the Education and Duplicate Bridge Promotion Team. They have met and an invitation to clubs to apply for funding of promotional activities has been agreed.
- And Diana Nettleton suggested that we should produce a document summarising all the things that the county organisation does for its clubs and members. A draft document has been approved by the Management Committee and will shortly be available.
- Following our failure to appoint a secretary at the AGM I wrote to all county members asking for volunteers. This brought forward three offers and I am happy to report that I have accepted Ken Langdon of Kings Sutton Bridge Club’s offer to take on the full role. I am also grateful to Mary-Ann Sheehy for stepping into the breach in the interim period and taking our minutes at the last MC meeting.
- The MC reviewed the county’s published objectives (see the “Management Teams and Development Objectives” tab on the Administration page of this website) and made a few changes. They recognise that little work has been done on a few of the detailed objectives, but agreed that this did not invalidate their existence in the list. In particular volunteers to do more in the “Social” area would be appreciated. (see also “Festival” below)
- Sadly the Competitions and County Nights Team (C&CNT) reached the conclusion that county nights on Tuesdays in Oxford were no longer sufficiently well attended to remain viable.
10.2 And some thoughts for the future:
- Kathy Talbot and John Slater are reviewing a paper prepared by the National Counties Working Group entitled “Best Practice for County Associations” on behalf of the MC to see what we as a county can learn from it. They have promised to report shortly and I am hoping it will suggest making our MC structure more effective - at present I think too many people are entitled to attend the meetings but too few do.
- It is nearly a year since we held our first Oxfordshire Club Chairs Conference. This seemed to go down very well with those who attended so I will organise another one soon. I am sure that we can usefully continue to discuss how we get more people playing bridge, but please suggest other topics.
- The C&CNT is considering what events can be run to replace the role of county nights in getting the better players in the county together on a reasonably regular basis. Someone told me that at their club AGM a member was asking that some club nights be restricted to players above a certain standard. That is fine, but wouldn’t it be better if club nights remain open to all and those who want to play at a higher level engage themselves with players from other clubs in county-organised events? I await the team’s suggestions.
- With the help of Abbey Smith, Barbara Jordan and Annabel Wade I am currently looking into the possibility of Oxfordshire running a “Festival of Bridge” over a few days next autumn. We aim to attract bridge players of all standards to Oxford for a holiday incorporating at least one bridge session a day together with some bridge seminars and plenty of time for socialising and sightseeing - the accent being on “social” rather than “competitive”. If anyone would be interested in helping with such an event please let me know.
Chairman’s blog Christmas 2015 - Robert Procter.
Over the past five years Oxfordshire’s membership numbers have remained fairly stable but over the most recent two years the number of P2P plays has fallen slightly. Bearing in mind the affiliation of the Abbey Smith Bridge Club two years ago and the re-affiliation of the Kings Sutton Bridge Club last year, the picture is even less rosy for the other clubs. With one or two exceptions membership and P2P plays of most clubs in the county has been declining.
It is clear that the main reason for this decline is that it is the natural result of an aging membership without adequate regeneration. And it is not because we are not teaching the game to enough new people – I have good reason to believe that almost a thousand people have received bridge lessons through our clubs in the past five years, yet our OBA membership is currently still between fifteen and sixteen hundred as it was five years ago.
We need to look at the reasons why those who learn bridge with us often don’t move on to become regular playing members of our clubs. I invited Abbey Smith, whose club has a significantly better record in this regard than most, to address a Club Chairmen’s Conference to tell us about the many steps she takes to help her beginners across the threshold into club duplicate bridge. I hope the chairmen present went away with ideas of things they could do in their own clubs.
I myself have embarked on some fact-finding visits to clubs’ “beginners” or “transition” duplicates. Some comments arising from these:
Learning must be fun or people will not get past that stage
- A first duplicate is a fear-inducing experience – and people won’t come back unless they enjoy it – so a welcome at the door and at each table is of fundamental importance -pairing beginners up with someone more experienced can help
- I have met people who had tried club bridge but didn’t like the atmosphere and others report that this is why their friends who learnt with them don’t now play at clubs
- Good behaviour requirements start as soon as you join another table or someone else joins you – so we need to break off our conversation with our partner and introduce ourselves properly and then talk to them – we can talk to our partners afterwards
- People can be put off by different things – players who are too serious, too competitive, too slow or too rude to name but a few – with the New Year approaching let us all make a resolution to be both self-aware and aware of our responsibility to ensure that our opponents and partner have an enjoyable session whether or not they win
Finally I would like to issue club chairmen a few challenges:
To have a plan for regeneration and growth, preferably including a growth target
- To invite me to attend an appropriate session at their club and to talk with them about their plans and whether the county can do anything to help
- To run an open event that will attract the sort of people who play bridge but have turned their back on club bridge because they found they didn’t like the atmosphere – they may be surprised at how many people in this category their members know.
- I will end this blog by wishing you all a very merry Christmas and a happy New Year with lots of new faces at your bridge tables.
Chairman’s blog July 2015 - Robert Procter.
8.1 CHAIRMEN’S CONFERENCE
Earlier this week I attended the EBU County Chairmen’s Conference in London. As well as receiving news of several interesting developments from the Board we considered work that had been done by the County Working Groups. Minutes of the meeting will be produced in due course, but I thought the following points were worth noting:
A document listing ideas of best practice in county association management contains a number of ideas we might benefit from - a working party to review our practice against this benchmark may be useful
- Work is being done on producing glossy brochures identifying the benefits of belonging to the EBU for both clubs and individuals – I await these with interest
- If we want to attract more members to our affiliated clubs we have to ensure we provide what prospective members want and perhaps we have to be prepared to change – I suggest we might consider an Oxfordshire Club Chairmen’s Conference to discuss the material that is being collected
- The EBU is keen to set up Regional Improvers Events for players below a certain rank, based on a successful event held in Yorkshire – the Midlands Counties Working Group has undertaken to try to organise one for the Midlands Region
- There is much interest in the idea of holding a National Bridge Day during which events such as our Café Bridge days might be held throughout the country on the same day for maximum publicity opportunity
- I thought it was great to discover that Oxfordshire has more junior members (94) than any two other counties put together – well done all those who made this happen. Wasn’t it great to see some of them at our Congress too?
8.2 DEALING MACHINES
Have any of you been watching the 7th European Open Championships from Tromso in Norway? Every table is serviced by a Bridge+MORE dealing machine and tablet connected to a server. Each deal is dealt at the table! When you return the hand to the machine at the end of play you leave the cards in the order they were played. While you are playing the next deal the machine records the play of the cards for the previous deal. Wow! I have written to the Danish suppliers of this system to find out how much the system costs and whether it is already in action anywhere in this country to have a look at. You can read about it on page 19 of the July 1 bulletin on the tournament website.
Chairman’s Easter blog March 2015 - Robert Procter.
7.1 COUNTY TEAM SUCCESSES
You may already know that the county achieved considerable success in the Midlands League this year, winning both of the top two divisions and coming a close second behind Warwickshire in the third. There have been a large number of players representing the county in these matches which demonstrates strength in depth and augurs well for the future. Well played, all of them. The selectors and captain too can take both credit and heart. The next target must be to improve on a creditable third place in the Tollemache qualifier (the county championships) and reach the final.
7.2 COUNTY NIGHTS
It is clear from the responses to John Slater’s questionnaire to the county squad as well as fr om other feedback that weekly county nights in Oxford are no longer attractive enough to provide a strong field to test oneself against every Tuesday. It is felt that if these are reduced to two Tuesdays a month it may be easier to encourage a strong field to attend. The Competitions and County Nights Team (CCNTT) will be trying to work out with the Oxford Bridge Club and others how the other Tuesdays could be used. As a county we are entitled to run weekly events attracting county-level local points and the CCNTT will be looking at whether other events around the county could also be run on this basis once we reduce Tuesday nights in Oxford to two a month. These would have to be of sufficient standard, open to all members of the county and run under the auspices of the county – but we would welcome invitations from clubs to help us achieve this at their venue.
Unfortunately I must say something about the issue of behaviour towards officers. Recently there have been a number of occasions when those responsible for organising competitions have had to penalise pairs or teams for breaking a competition’s rules. Of course this is unfortunate for those who are so penalised, but the rules are there for a purpose. I fully support the officers concerned in applying the penalties stipulated - not to do so would be unfair on all those who have followed the rules. (For the same reason I believe penalties for late arrival should not be waived by the non-offending side in a Wessex League match as other teams may be applying the penalty in a different match with unfair consequences on league positions) Inevitably those penalised are disappointed and sometimes angry, but the majority of rulings are accepted with good grace. I would urge you all not to take out any anger you feel on the unfortunate officer who is merely fulfilling a voluntary position to the best of his or her ability. Thank you.
7.4 NEXT YEAR
In less than three months’ time we will reach the end of another bridge year and we will be looking to elect next year’s officers. As always there are officers who are resigning and probably others who are prepared to continue but would be ever so happy to step down if someone else would like to take over. Personally I fall within the latter category and would not be in the slightest bit offended if someone else wants the chairman’s role.
I was looking the other day at the aims I publicised when I took on the chair, and while I would like to think there has been progress towards some of them, there is still a lot that can be done and perhaps a new person would provide a greater stimulus to action.
Meanwhile one of my tasks is to find replacements for those who are known to be leaving their posts. I believe it is important for our Management Committee to be drawn as widely as possible from all our membership if it is properly to serve all our members. My problem is that I don’t know all of our membership and the perfect person, for example, to replace Sandra Nicholson as secretary may indeed be someone that I have never even met. I have written to all members of the Management Committee asking them to suggest people I should meet to talk about whether they might be ready, willing and able to fill a role in the county’s administration – but the suggestion could come from anyone out there – please don’t be shy!
I am pleased to report that Nigel Birks has agreed to take over the role of auditor from Chris Wilson. This appointment will need to be ratified by the AGM.
Chairman’s blog February 2015 - Robert Procter.
6 COUNTY NIGHTS AND COUNTY TEAM SELECTION
I am pleased to report that John Slater has undertaken to lead a small working party tasked with the role of reviewing county nights. At the time of writing he has invited Rob Dixon, Colin Jones, Peter Litchfield and Mary-Ann Sheehy to join him. The decline in attendances over the winter months calls into question the relevance of holding weekly county nights in Oxford. Before deciding whether county nights are fit for purpose his group will have to agree what that purpose is. Is it to provide a forum for best bridge, or at least for better bridge than can be found at club level at all clubs or should it be an important feature in the county selection process? Should they be less frequent or spread around different venues? A questionnaire has already gone out to members of the county squad to canvass their views, but the views of others are of course also important and he will be seeking these too. If you have thoughts you wish to input, please do write to John.
Chairman’s blog October 2014 - Robert Procter.
5 BRIEF UPDATE
I can now announce formally that David Bygott has taken on the role of county Publicity Officer. Welcome aboard, David.
Sadly at the same time I must also announce that Diana Nettleton has resigned from her posts as County Night Coordinator and Competitions and County Nights Team Leader. My thanks go to her for the hard work and enthusiasm she brought to both roles – those who attend county nights know how much her efforts have contributed to a revitalisation of county nights. She will be hard to replace – any volunteers please? Stephen Brown has kindly agreed to caretake both roles until a replacement is found, but we all need to be aware that he departs the county when he retires from his work next June, so it would be good to have a new regime in place well before he goes.
Meanwhile a new schedule of Tuesday night events covering approximately the next six months has been agreed and is included in the calendar. You will see that it includes the Mens and ladies Pairs Championship on October 28, events for which attendances have been dwindling over recent years. Neighbouring counties have moved such events to weekdays from weekends and found that attendances have increased, so I hope this move will be popular in Oxfordshire too. A very pleasing little brochure showing the new programme is available from Stephen to those who play in county nights.
Chairman’s blog AUGUST 2014 - Robert Procter.
4.1 OBJECTIVES, GRANTS AND VOLUNTEERS
Readers of this blog and various chairman's reports will have read before of the county's need for more volunteers to carry out roles within the county. They will also be aware of the thought that achieving the county's objectives is something that the county organisation should be seeking to do working alongside its affiliated clubs. Our interests are the same - promoting the game of bridge in Oxfordshire. With this in mind the Management Committee has agreed that I should open up a debate as to whether some of the county's objectives could be achieved by offering grants to clubs as an alternative to appointing county-level volunteers. An e-mail inviting discussion on the idea is going to all members of the Management Committee including club representatives. You can see our objectives on the "Development" button on the "Administration" page of this website and within that more detailed objectives for each team by clicking on the team name (e.g. "Education"). If you have any suggestions for objectives that you or your club might help to achieve where a financial grant from the county might assist please do contact me. (email@example.com).
4.2 COUNTY NIGHT REVIEW
Significant changes to Tuesdays' county nights in Oxford were introduced on a trial basis at the beginning of May. Numbers attending have increased and we received a lot of favourable feedback. However the change that transferred the Menagerie's monthly event to a county night, whilst welcomed by many of the participants, did not meet with universal approval and the Management Committee (MC) has asked the Competitions and County Nights Team (CCNT) to find an alternative.
It became clear during discussions inside and outside the MC that there were different perceptions of the arrangements made. Those in favour of the arrangement saw it as a benefit to the county and were grateful to the Menagerie for agreeing to the change, whilst those against it felt that the county was doing a favour to the Menagerie and should not be favouring one club above others.
Whatever the rights and wrongs of these perceptions it is important that we all move forward together. The CCNT is responsible for deciding on the future programme of county nights. However I have felt it right to invite a third party, my predecessor as chairman, John Briggs, to set up a small group to assist the process. I have asked his group to advise me of any governance issues arising from the process to date, to consider how a reconciliation of differing views may be achieved and to provide support to the CCNT in bringing a future programme into being.
In the long term I think it is important that we all have the good of the county and its players at heart and that includes putting aside inter-club rivalries for the benefit of the county. County nights can serve two purposes:- they can provide an opportunity for players to play in a stronger field than at their home club and they can form an important role in improving both the standard and team spirit of our county representative teams. Let us make them work for us all.
Chairman’s blog JUNE 2014 - Robert Procter.
4.1 COUNTY NIGHTS UPDATE
I am told my blogs are too lengthy – they need to be punchier – so here goes:
Feedback: We’ve had a lot of favourable feedback about the new-look county night programme introduced at the beginning of May. Diana Nettleton and her team are much encouraged by this and by the numbers attending. The Swiss Pairs filled 12 tables and the Claridge Cup has 10 teams already and some indications that more may join in the second month.
- Comments: There have been critical comments too – no change is ever achieved without it. Diana will take these comments into account when the programme of events for the second six months is discussed. A suggestion that some county nights should be held at other venues around the county will be considered – but I don’t want to raise hopes too far as these may be difficult to organise given the fixed nature of both county and club venue bookings.
- Volunteers: I need to say something about the nature of some of those critical comments. Everyone should understand that those who volunteer for posts within the county are doing so to improve our bridge experience. Negative and aggressive criticism will cause people to question why they bother to give up their time for the benefit of others. I would urge those who have suggestions to ensure they make them constructively and to support the process of change that is for all our benefits. People who give their time to the county need to hear that their efforts are appreciated or they will leave it to someone else. Apart from anything else suggestions made in a supportive manner are more likely to be listened to.
- Join in: If you did not play at county nights in May it is not too late to join in. Just turn up as a pair or team on the first two Tuesdays respectively. Notify Stephen Brown in advance if you want to join the third Tuesday’s Swiss Pairs and Christopher Whitehouse if you want to make a late entry into the Claridge Cup on the fourth Tuesdays.
Chairman’s blog April 2014 - Robert Procter.
3.1 COUNTY NIGHTS
Every Tuesday the county runs a duplicate at the Oxford Bridge Club. The county’s better players have the opportunity to pit their wits against each other and those who aspire to improve their game also get the chance to play against those better players. Over the past few years the numbers attending have declined and perhaps it is the better players who have been most obviously absent. When asked why, they may offer the “chicken and egg” answer that they stay away because the standard is no longer as high! But many other reasons are cited – too many other events, travel and parking, price, playing conditions, late finishes etc.
I am very pleased to tell you that Diana Nettleton has accepted the challenge of trying to reverse this trend. She comes to the task with a lot of initial ideas which she has discussed with the Competitions Team. Changes planned for the beginning of May can be found elsewhere on this website – see reference on the home page. If you have ideas too she is keen to hear from you.
An earlier start time (arrival at 7:00 for 7:15 start) should ensure that we get an earlier finish.
The intention to link some county team places directly with performance was approved in principle by the Management Committee – if county players come to county night and are worth their places they should win those places and there will be no changes in the team, but if not ………who knows?
The Management Committee also approved the idea that some Tuesdays should be run in stratified divisions whilst others will remain all play all.
A further recommendation approved by the Management Committee will see one Tuesday a month being run by the Menagerie Bridge Club. They will no longer run their separate open club event on a Monday night which was attracting good players away from the immediately succeeding Tuesday.
Do come along and support your weekly county event and let’s get it going with a bang!
A second new appointment approved by the Management Committee sees Jonathan Price taking on the role of Education Officer. He has a great deal of enthusiasm for the task and, as a relatively recent bridge learner, he sees the education needs from a learner’s perspective.
He questions how a person should measure his own standard and how he can identify what he needs to do to improve – both difficult questions to answer. Who you can and can’t beat may give you a measure, as may the National Grading Scheme, but neither measure tells you what your strengths and weaknesses are or what you should learn next. For this you will need to work out what causes your poor scores – a task which will be more likely to be successful if you have the help of a stronger player. Jonathan’s aim is to ensure help is available to people to identify their strengths and weaknesses just as much as their overall standard and then to make sure available teaching to meet those needs is well described and publicised. He will need the help and guidance of those on the Education Team to develop these ideas. I am sure he will welcome the ideas of others too.
3.3 ONE BRIDGE COMMUNITY
In the past, wherever you played your bridge - at home, in a private sports or social club or in an open affiliated or unaffiliated bridge club - you probably used services provided by the EBU – after all they monitor the rules of the game, supply bridge equipment, resolve disputes, train tournament directors, provide computerised scoring systems etc. You might also have been happy to contribute through them to supporting your country’s bridge team. If you are now a member of an affiliated club you still use these services, but now that the bridge community consists of affiliated and unaffiliated clubs it is only right that these services are restricted to those who pay for them, the members of the affiliated clubs.
How has this division come about? In the past individual membership of the EBU was a requirement for those who wished to play in EBU and county competitions whilst those who did not participate in such competitions were not members. The EBU argued that, as the services were used by everybody playing the game, the cost of providing those services should be more appropriately met by charging everybody playing in club competitions as well as county and EBU competitions pro-rata to the amount they played. Accordingly they invited clubs to administer the Pay To Play scheme, also referred to as Universal Membership.
A big debate then took place. Many clubs consisted of a mixture of people of a range of standards, some of whom played in national or county competitions and some who did not. The former wanted to administer the new scheme recognising the good deal of cheaper bridge if the costs were spread more widely whilst the latter looked at the value they would get for their money and some accepted it was good value and others did not. As well as splitting the community into affiliated and unaffiliated clubs this also created a population of disaffected members within both sets of clubs – those in affiliated clubs who still don’t play in EBU or county competitions but must pay more for their bridge and also those in unaffiliated clubs who find they have to pay a higher direct membership charge if they want to play in EBU or county events.
OBA members have an interest in extending the cost-sharing community to include either more unaffiliated clubs or to attract more of their members to join its clubs. I have mentioned above the EBU’s hope that ring fencing the benefits so that they are not available to unaffiliated clubs may encourage them to affiliate. However my purpose in raising the issue here is to encourage you to think down a different line. If our social/promotional events (café bridge has been a good example) are sufficiently attractive to members of unaffiliated clubs, people who attend these may be attracted by other county competitions. To participate in these this they will find they have to join the EBU as direct members or persuade their club to affiliate – I don’t think we mind which – but you can see the potential benefit of promoting our events to members of unaffiliated bridge clubs and other social bridge groups.
If I had to suggest one objective for us all it would be to seek to reunite all bridge players into one bridge community.
Chairman’s blog December 19 2013 - Robert Procter.
I would like to wish all OBA members a very enjoyable festive season.
As 2014 approaches let us spare a thought for those who have yet to get the pleasure we get from the game. Perhaps they don’t know what it feels like to take a winning finesse or execute a double squeeze or take a top off the club champion. Perhaps they haven’t even had their first bridge lesson. We get such a lot of enjoyment out of our splendid game that it would seem unfair to keep it all to ourselves – so please don’t be backward in spreading the Christmas message – “bridge is a great game and alive and growing in Oxfordshire”.
It is also an appropriate time for me to express my sincere thanks to all those officers and others who have worked so hard to maintain and develop all the bridge events provided by the Oxfordshire Bridge Association. They do a lot of wonderful work. If anything doesn’t go to plan you can be sure it’s not for want of trying.
2.2 NEW YEAR
The OBA’s detailed objectives are wide (to see what they are in detail click on the Development button on the old website) and will, I believe, resonate with most members’ wishes. If they don’t match yours, please let someone on the Management Committee know (speak for example to one of your club’s OBA reps) and we can discuss whether they should be changed.
I hold most important those objectives that seek to provide more for the player who aspires to improve his or her bridge and those that give people opportunities to play in a wider environment.
I didn’t discover that I enjoyed duplicate bridge until I was encouraged to be brave enough to visit a duplicate bridge club and then it was some time before I found that for me teams bridge was more enjoyable than pairs and that a head to head match (usually at someone’s house with good refreshments on offer) was more enjoyable than multiple teams. Someone told me today that a successful bridge event needs cake! That sounds good to me so I will try to spread that message too. However my point is that we need to help people over the threshold into our clubs and before they become too comfortable there help them on over the next threshold into the wider bridge world. There is a natural reluctance to leave the cosy confines of the local club which people who enter county competitions have overcome and can help others to do so too.
So you will understand that I was disappointed that our attempts at setting up regional social leagues for less experienced players did not immediately take off. We have had feedback that there are people out there who would welcome such a league and similar leagues in neighbouring counties are popular, so we are not going to give up on the idea. As a means of progressing things we plan to run a number of regional social teams’ evenings over the spring and summer principally for players whose NGS grade is 9 or below - we are going to allow one player over grade 9 per team of 4 whose experience should be of benefit to the others. These will give opportunities for us to meet players who might be interested in a social league and to discuss how best to take the idea forward in Oxfordshire. We hope to run these events in conjunction with local clubs. The first will be at Blewbury BC on February 19. Full details and how to enter appear on the social pages – click on the tab “Social Events” in the Social section of this website.
Finally I would like to wish all OBA’s members a lot of enjoyment at the bridge table in 2014. In a very good year there would be no need to call the TD, nothing would interfere with anyone’s enjoyment, all executive roles would be filled and the executive tasks would be carried out to perfection – but I know life isn’t like that so let’s just make a New Year Resolution to get as near to a very good year as we can. A happy New Year to you all.
Chairman's blog November 2 2013 – Robert Procter
We have our new website – now we must make use of it. We aim to improve its value as a focal point for everything to do with bridge in Oxfordshire. Provided the content is well organised it is probably a case of "the more the better" – but all information has to be kept up-to-date. Entry is easy and requires little training (familiarity with Microsoft Word is an advantage).
Aleks Lishkov has overall responsibility for the maintenance of the site, with Stephen Brown as his back-up. Stephen Brown and I both have access rights to enter information in all areas but our primary responsibilities will be to maintain the Play Duplicate Bridge and Chairman's Blog areas respectively. Entry access rights already allocated for other areas are:
Administration: Sandra Nicholson
County Team: Nick Smith
Social: Barbara Jordan
Competition Entries: Claire MacDonagh
This means there are already a number of people you can contact if you want to put something up on the county website. If you expect to be a regular contributor of information and think it might be appropriate for you to be given entry access rights please speak to Aleks. Similarly if you have ideas for additional content that you think would be useful please tell Aleks.
1.2 OXFORDSHIRE'S DEVELOPMENT OBJECTIVES
About two years ago we set up six management teams reporting to the Management Committee to cover our different areas of operation – Education, Selection and County Team Management, Competitions and County Nights, Duplicate Bridge Promotion and Youth, Social, Infrastructure. If you click on the Development Objectives tab (still on the old website at the time of writing) you can read the individual objectives agreed by the Management Committee for each team. If you play bridge in Oxfordshire and have any suggestions that might help us to achieve those objectives please do contact me or the relevant team leader. Similarly if you think any of these objectives should be modified or extended in any way please do let us know. They can be changed.
1.3 A QUESTION ABOUT THE BRIDGE COMMUNITY
Our county membership is made up of about 1250 members at our 18 affiliated clubs together with a few unattached players. Of these we estimate that about 50% tend to play in EBU or OBA pairs and teams competitions and the other 50% only play at their local clubs. Beyond this there are a significant number of unaffiliated clubs where duplicate bridge or rubber bridge is played and there may be even more people who play socially within their own homes. One estimate I heard was that our county membership represented only about 10% of the actual bridge playing population of the county. The true figure doesn't really matter – what is significant is that there clearly are a lot of people playing this wonderful game. But how many of the rubber bridge fraternity have tried duplicate and how many of the duplicate fraternity have tried team bridge? The experience of most competitive players is that having found duplicate they don't go back to rubber bridge and that teams bridge can be more rewarding than pairs. Two of our challenges must be to encourage rubber bridge players to try duplicate and duplicate players to try team bridge.
1.4 WHAT CAN YOU DO TO HELP?
I started to learn to play bridge with school friends at the age of 14. We taught ourselves from a book and weren't very good. We found this out when we were challenged to a game by some of the masters and were soundly beaten. That was my first experience of a match. When I came up to Oxford a fellow Pembrokian in my year was already a county bridge player for Staffordshire. He played with a group of us into the small hours most days of the week, teaching us the language of bidding. I remember discovering that psyching could be fun even if it sometimes incurred the wrath of partner. He opened our eyes to the rich possibilities in the play of the cards. After a few weeks he pronounced us ready to go to the University Bridge Club to play a duplicate. That was a fearsome experience. But we went and survived and went again. The second time wasn't so bad and after a while we were occasionally winning some local points. Then it was on to County Night. In our second and third years Pembroke won the Inter-College "Cuppers" twice, we played twice in the Varsity Match with Cambridge and were part of the University team that won the Wessex League. Since then the challenge has been to keep improving at county level and beyond.
Why am I telling you this? Because I was lucky to have played a lot of what you might call experimental bridge at school and university, and I was lucky to have so much bridge-playing time with a very good player, and I was lucky to be persuaded to try duplicate bridge and to discover the enjoyment of pitting your wits against many other players in a duplicate pairs or against another team in a head-to-head match.
I have the ambition within Oxfordshire bridge to ensure that as many people as possible get similar opportunities. When they learn the game they need to be helped to discover the fun in it. Making mistakes, psyching, getting bad scores – all are part of the learning process that leads to the enjoyment of sometimes getting it right. They need to find the good player who will help them to improve their skills. They need to be helped through the fearsome experience of their first exposure to duplicate. They need to be given the chance to play matches at an appropriate level.
One of the initiatives that Oxfordshire is starting this year is a regional social teams league – a vehicle for giving people the opportunity to try teams bridge at a starter and improver level. If you are reading this it is more than likely you yourself are already a competition player, perhaps playing in the Wessex League or County Nights. Please consider whether there are beginners and improvers at your club (or even at unaffiliated clubs or at home) who might, with your encouragement, discover the fun of teams play through this competition. Draw their attention to the Social Events page on this website. Maybe you could help them to make up a team or even play in it with them so that they can learn the ropes from an experienced player. That way you will be doing for them what my fellow-Pembrokian did for me. Thank you.