ABTA: Home of the American Bridge Teachers' Association

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


Claire Sheldon

"I literally live, eat and sleep bridge... bridge is my passion"

How did you first get into playing bridge, and then teaching bridge?

I learned bridge by watching my parents when I was about eight years old. First they let me play the dummy and slowly but surely eased me in. I started teaching bridge when I arrived in Canada from South Africa in 1977. I was not able to teach school in Canada as my diploma was not recognized. Since I wasn’t qualified to do much else, and being housebound looking after my son Darren, I started teaching bridge from home. I really enjoyed it and soon started teaching for the local Board of Education.

How did you develop such a large, successful bridge club from your teaching program?

I find all my energy goes into the running of the games and my teaching program has suffered a lot. I was lucky a lot of my former students have come to my club and I work very hard at mentoring them.

What is your teaching philosophy?

I like to bring logic to the game by making the students do a lot of answering questions, giving their logic for their answers. I also think it’s important to play hands with each lesson.

Do you have any advice for other teachers, especially new ones?

Have a sense of humour and make the learning experience fun!

How did it feel to win the Canadian women's team trials and represent Canada in Istanbul?

The experience of coming up from behind and winning the trials was probably one of the highlights of my life. It was a wonderful experience playing in a world championship, but I would have liked to have been more prepared.

Have you seen changes in recent years in your teaching programs?

I do like to keep up with the modern, up-to-date ways of bidding. Cue bidding is something I insist my students learn to use.

What are your favorite bridge books?

I use all of Audrey Grant’s books. I find her books easy to teach from, especially because there are hands on the lesson which allow each student a chance to play. I also use Eddie Kantar's books.

Tell us a little more about your life. How do you balance your working life with your personal life?

I'm afraid there is no balance to my life. I literally live, eat and sleep bridge. I am lucky in one respect that bridge is my passion but I have neglected everything else. Up until three years ago, I had always worked for someone else and put in the same energy working morning noon and night. Now that I have my own bridge club I am still working hard but making decisions for myself and having my family around to give support and help every bit of the way.

When did you start playing bridge with your sons?

When my sons first learned to play bridge it was a big treat for them to sit down and play with me. Now things have changed a lot and it is my favorite treat to sit down and play with them, which I honestly love. I don’t get a lot of opportunities to play with them, but when I do I feel so proud and I also learn something every time.

Does it surprise you that Gavin has become a top professional? And how do you feel about your son Gavin and his wife Jenny playing professional bridge?

Gavin’s success doesn’t surprise me a bit. He has always been passionate and focused on bridge. At first I was disappointed that Gavin didn’t get a degree first before taking up bridge as a career. But, I have to say that seeing him and Jenny so happy and successful in what they are doing makes me happy. I do feel confident that he has the ability to do anything his heart desires, and if that is playing bridge he will be successful.

Do you and your children still teach each other about bridge?

I learn from my sons even though they learned the basics from me -- now the tides have turned and I’m always bugging them to answer one more bridge question when I am not sure I am giving someone else the right analysis on a problematic hand. I can remember my children following me in the supermarket asking me bridge questions and me saying “Enough!” Now I phone them and ask if I can give them a bridge hand so they can help me solve a problem – “I promise only one hand!”