New Pres: What’s Next?

2018 ACBL President Jay Whipple

“What’s next?” reads Jay Whipple’s email signature line. Now the new ACBL president is the one answering the question.

Elected to spearhead the organization in 2018, Whipple’s agenda for the year centers around a single theme: the smooth functioning of the ACBL chief executive officer and the Board. “That involves greater communication and close work together,” Whipple explains.

“We have a great CEO,” Whipple says of Bahar Gidwani, who was hired in the middle of last year. “By the end of our Board meeting here, we had a clearer understanding of whose role is what.”

Whipple has sincere praise for predecessor President Bob Heller.

“Bob did an amazing job of restructuring Board committees to align with function rather than politics,” Whipple says. The new president has asked Board members to serve where they can contribute the most, with flexibility in assignments that will enable them to move between committees as their experience and the need dictate.

He uses the Harkness table as a model for bringing people together. A learning evolution Whipple first became familiar with in high school, the Harkness table seats a teacher and students around an oval table where everyone is a partner – nobody’s ideas count more than anybody else’s.

“We want to bring our strategic partners into our discussions at the table — teachers, clubs, units, districts – bring all our talent together to learn from each other,” he says.

Technology is a familiar thread in Whipple’s ambitions. He describes himself as an entrepreneur “who packages things and puts them together with people.” One such innovation was Fast Results, a service that emailed game results immediately upon posting. It grew quickly into much more and became an indispensable service for clubs and tournaments interested in providing their players with immediate scores.

Fast Results transitioned to become ACBL Live, though a “heavily district-centric” component of Fast Results still enables tournament organizers to set up daily bulletins and survey attendees.

“I’m blessed to have been able to work with extremely talented people in the organization, during the development of Fast results, especially the tournament directors who took me under their wing.”

Whipple is also responsible for the Common Game. It started when Allan Graves was lamenting ‘how we used to go to bars and talk about hands following the game,’ he says.

“So we developed technology that would enable us to share hands across multiple clubs, and Allan provided hand analysis.” Now the Common Game allows clubs access to aggregate results seven days, three times a day. Pros volunteer their analysis.

“Lynn Berg writes a quip – two sentences about each hand,” says Whipple. “It’s the most read analysis we do.”

Earlier this month, the ACBL experimented with a pilot “Regionals at Clubs,” a concept proposed by Whipple and District 6 Board Director Margot Hennings.

“We want to respond to the people who quit going to the club because they can’t get the gold points they need to make Life Master: the ones who say, ‘Why bother? I can’t get there before I die.’”

Using the Common Game, players participated in a regional, paying a week’s worth of card fees to play electronically via BBO. The clubs acted as monitoring sites. The infrastructure requirements – such as a reliable internet connection — were difficult for some clubs to meet, but Whipple says it was an excellent learning experience.

“We launched Kitty Hawk; we did it – we flew. We learned. Now management has informed direction as to how we continue.”

Whipple says the two most exciting outcomes from the pilot were one, “the buzz! People came out of the woodwork! Clubs reported waiting lists to get into games.” The second positive outcome was the finding that individuals played three times more than usual.

Whipple, who represents District 9 (Florida), is in the second year of his second three-year term on the Board. He chairs the Board’s Strategic Committee and headed up the CEO Search Committee, which studied and met dozens of candidates before recommending Gidwani for hiring by the Board of Directors. He lives in Boca Grande with his wife Kimberly, whom he credits “for her unwavering support.”

Sometimes, Whipple says, his email correspondents respond to his signature line. He nods and smiles.

“What’s next?”