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Susie Minor, from left to right, Phyllis Marshall and Angie Cozzarin play a hand of bridge.

If you think the game of bridge is for only for seniors, then think again.

Penny Cameron, a teacher at Ross N. Robinson Middle School in Kingsport, Tennessee, said the school started a bridge club for its students three years ago, and she’s already witnessing the benefits.

“The students exhibit greater math and logic skills while having a lot of fun.”

As many as 20 students are attending the club meetings this school year.

It may not be the coolest trend out there, but more and more young people are learning how to play the card game that originated centuries ago. And, that’s exciting news for Nancy Metcalf, manager of the Abingdon Bridge Club, which meets three times each week at the Abingdon Senior Center.

Metcalf wants to see more people in the community try their hand at the game, particularly the younger generation, who may think it’s a game for only their grandparents.

“And, that’s just not so,” said Metcalf. “You’ll have so much fun you won’t even remember that it’s actually good for you. Bridge helps to increase memory and concentration skills.”

To introduce new players to the game, the Abingdon club is offering four free Easybridge! lessons for beginner players beginning Tuesday, Sept. 16, at the Abingdon Senior Center. The lessons will be held each Tuesday at 6:30 p.m.

“These lessons are open to everyone and every age each Tuesday,” said Metcalf.

“We would love to have college students join. We have a lost generation out there. So we have to grab the new generation in junior high so that they can learn and start a new tradition. Everyone played bridge when we were their age,” she said.

“It’s really easy to learn. We start out with EasyBridge! on the first night telling our participants that this is a deck of cards,” she laughed. “We start out very basic. Beginners actually get to play the game during the first lesson, and then we will show them a new tip each Tuesday. Part of the class will be teaching and the rest will be about playing and enjoying the game.”

The Abingdon Bridge Club will offer three levels of lessons, each one lasting for 10 weeks. Metcalf said the first four weeks on the first level will focus on teaching those people who know nothing about the game. The last six weeks will be devoted to helping those players who want to improve their game.

Bridge is a partnership game requiring four players. Each player sits opposite his partner at a card table. The game, played with a standard deck of 52 cards, has two main parts, the bidding and the play.

“With duplicate bridge, everyone plays the same hand. After everyone at your table plays, you send it to the next table,” she explained. “Social bridge is played with different dealt hands.”

Dr. Tim Musick of Abingdon has been a member of the Abingdon Bridge Club for three years.

“When I first heard about a bridge club in Abingdon, I thought I had to be a senior before I could play. I actually waited 10 years before I joined,” he laughed. “Then one day someone told me you don’t have to be a senior to play bridge at the senior center.”

Metcalf said, “Our hope is that by letting the region know this is for younger people that will open the first door.”

She hopes one day local schools will introduce the game to young students, similar to the clubs offered in the Kingsport schools.

So, why learn to play bridge?

Musick said the game is not only fun, but it’s also an excellent training device for the brain. Studies show that children who play bridge are better at math and English because it causes them to use communication and problem solving. Players learn how to concentrate, think sharper and plan strategically, not to mention work as team members.

“This is what every corporation looks for—the ability to problem solve,” said Musick. “Students go to school to get a degree but they also learn how to problem solve. Bridge is fantastic for that.”

The game is a way to interact with family. “Participants can take home what they learn here and play the game as a family or with neighbors. Bridge is a good way to get the children away from the television and electronic devices and spend time with each other,” he said.

Just as the name implies, the game “bridges” people together from the young and old to different populations and communities.

“Bridge is world-wide,” said Metcalf. “Once you learn how to play Easybridge!, you can play on the computer with people all over the world. People go on vacations to places such as Denmark, England and even Turkey, and can find a bridge club to visit. It’s a universal game.”

The game offers many social opportunities. Metcalf learned from her parents at age 12 and has played the game ever since in many locations.

Metcalf said most of their members enjoy playing at bridge tournaments. The two largest tournaments in the country are held in Gatlinburg, Tenn., and Las Vega, Nev.

At 85, Ellie Branham drives from Saltville to the Abingdon Senior Center to play bridge with her friends almost every week, a pastime she learned about when she was in high school. Branham recalled she and her high school friends were asked to serve refreshments to bridge players raising money for their Florida school PTA.

“We watched them play bridge for hours before we set out for Clearwater Beach where we sat in the sand and placed our bids. We didn’t know what we were doing, but we still had fun,” she laughed.

“Once you get the bridge bug, it just keeps going.”

To learn more about the beginner bridge lessons, contact Nancy Metcalf at (276) 628-6287.

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