ABTA: Home of the American Bridge Teachers' Association

“To help those who teach bridge to do it better, more effectively, more knowledgeably, more professionally.”

By Anisa Nixon

In putting together our Teacher of the Year award for 2014, I became curious about this year's ABTA convention, which took place in Atlanta, GA, from July 30th to August 2nd. Since I didn't attend, I put together some questions to ask a few first time attendees and new members of the ABTA. I was wondering what they thought of their first bridge convention.

Joe Carbo, MJ Mallory, and Pam LaShelle are from different places across the United States but they have in common that this was their first year attending an ABTA convention. I asked them all a few questions, ranging from, "How long have you been playing bridge?" to "What would you change about the convention?"

For MJ Mallory from Roseland, FL, this was a bittersweet event to attend. She hasn't been teaching long and only started playing bridge more often than just “casually” about three and a half years ago. She says the "best part of taking up bridge playing was meeting and marrying the most wonderful man," her late husband Bill Malloy. She joined the ABTA and attended this year's convention at the prompting of Bill, whom she lost just last December. Our thoughts are with MJ and we are glad to welcome her to the ABTA and to our circle of bridge teachers.

Despite this loss, MJ was able to enjoy the convention. She attended as many talks as she could and is said to have come away with "a suitcase full of samples, notes, reminders, books given or bought, pencils, pens, bags etc." Her favorite part of the convention was "meeting [her] fellow ABTA members, each special and dear in their own rights" and she could easily tell how much work went into the convention itself.

Now we just need to find MJ some new students to apply her theories and teaching strategies to and we'll be all set. "I can hardly wait to meet my future ‘new’ friends,” she says. “Keep your fingers crossed for luck to come my way."

Pam LaShelle is a different story. New to the ABTA, she only joined and attended because Laura Delfield (a fellow teacher from the Bridge Center of Texas in Austin) had been nominated for Teacher of the Year. She's been playing bridge for over 50 years (having started playing with her parents when she was a teen) and came to the convention to support her friend. She's planning to attend again next year, if Laura's up for another award!

Pam attended most of the talks and especially enjoyed Billy Miller's "Take on Teaching New and Intermediate Players," Audrey Grant's one-lesson talk, Leslie Schafer's presentation with Charlie William's about using humor in teaching, and Julian Laderman's "Show and Tell: Whist and Bridge Toys." I wish I could have attend these talks, they sound fascinating!

Pam's only frustration was that the internet-focused presentations "all had technical problems." Although, she also thinks that the days might have been too full of things to do and ran a little long as a result. Shortening the daily program would allow attendees more time to relax and enjoy each other's company.

Here's hoping we see Pam at next year's Las Vegas convention!

Different from our other polled teachers, Joe Carbo has been a member of the ABTA for several years. He's been teaching since 1999, although he learned to play in 1963 and has been playing duplicate bridge since 1998. He says, "I have been playing card games since the 1940’s. After watching others play bridge while in college, I believed that I had found the greatest card game ever." That's high praise, Joe and you're definitely not wrong!

At the convention, Joe found like-minded individuals who love this game as well. It was his first year attending, although it was certainly worth the wait. He attended and enjoyed a number of the talks, and he seemed to most look forward the more social parts of the program, going so far as to say that he "really enjoyed the dinner and the awards ceremony." I'm hoping that he will attend next year's convention and enjoy those parts all over again.

None of the teachers I asked seem to have a desire to present at an upcoming convention nor were there any major things they would change about the convention itself. But I want to ask you, dear bridge player, did YOU attend this year's convention in Atlanta? Are you a veteran of previous conventions? What were your favorite moments? What could have been improved?

Give us your feedback at webmaster@abtahome.com, we'd love to know what you thought.


Special thanks to Joe Carbo, MJ Mallory, and Pam LaShelle for their feedback about the 2013 ABTA convention.