For their dedication working with youth and Junior bridge programs, Michael and Debbie Rosenberg have been named Honorary Members of the Year for 2019 by the ACBL Board of Directors.
“Debbie and Michael’s efforts have greatly improved the possibilities for the future of our game,” says District 13 Director Suzi Subeck, who submitted the nomination. “Debbie and Michael, all-star players in their own right, have devoted endless hours developing highly successful programs to encourage youth players.”
Debbie says she is grateful for the honor, and she is especially happy for Michael.
“I feel like I’ve gotten recognition for my work with Silicon Valley Youth,” Debbie says, “but Michael is the unsung hero. It’s unbelievable what he has done for Juniors!”
Debbie adds emphatically, “Nobody loves bridge more than Michael. He believes strongly that the world would be a better place if everybody played bridge.”
Michael runs the Junior training program for the U.S. Bridge Federation, which he developed in tandem with Debbie and Barry Goren. He is largely responsible for seeing that squads competing in Junior world championships are at their best — which includes everything from ethics discussions to recruiting partnership coaches and nonplaying captains to accompany the teams.
“Indefatigable” is how USBF Junior Program Coordinator Joe Stokes describes the Hall of Famer.
“Michael never tires of talking about bridge with young players,” Stokes says. In addition to meeting online with the players every week and organizing and running a three-day, live training event annually, Michael spearheads the program in other ways.
“He’s a great fundraiser,” Stokes says. “He has reputation as a star player – ethical and above-board. So, as a possible patron, when you get a letter from Michael Rosenberg, you respond.” According to Joe, it is because of Michael that economics (airfare, hotel, meals) are not a factor for the kids who attend training.
“Michael is also great at getting expert mentors,” Stokes said. “And he personally gives so much time to the program. He puts a lot of energy into everything he does.”
Debbie is one of the driving co-founders of Silicon Valley Youth Bridge, and the organization’s first president. Since its birth in May 2013, the California nonprofit has created and grown a remarkable variety of youth programs including free after-school bridge classes, informal Friday night games, monthly pizza parties and a week-long summer camp. Every summer, SiVY supports a contingent of kids attending the Youth North American Championships; in 2018, the organization sent 21 youth to Atlanta.
In 2018-19, the sixth school year since SiVY’s founding, the organization is supporting five middle schools and a record nine high school programs.
SiVY is an all-volunteer organization funded through private donations and support from the ACBL Educational Foundation.
When Debbie was named ACBL’s Volunteer of the Year in 2016, Subeck said, “Debbie teaches Juniors on all levels wherever she is needed. She wants bridge to succeed and flourish.”
Certainly one of the closest beneficiaries of Debbie’s and Michael’s work is their son, Kevin. An expert player in his own right, Kevin participated in SiVY activities and served as a mentor; he is also a member of the USBF training program and a seasoned competitor on U.S. teams representing the U.S. in international competition.
“I’m really proud of both my parents for being honored by the ACBL with this award,” says Kevin. “I know firsthand how excellent they both are as players and theorists, and I’m able to improve my game and knowledge by talking to them regularly. Also, I think what they’ve both done for Junior bridge (my mom’s work with Silicon Valley Youth Bridge, and my dad’s work with USBF Junior Training Program) is even more important and is probably what I’m most proud of them for, and what makes them both especially deserving of this award.”
USBF Chief Operating Officer Jan Martel says, “If bridge is to survive, it will be because of the efforts of Debbie, Michael and others like them who have worked tirelessly to introduce young players to the game and to nurture their interest. Debbie and the rest of the SiVY volunteers have shown us how to get school-age children started. Michael and the many expert mentors with the USBF Junior program fan the flames by teaching those young players the magic and challenge of our wonderful game.”