Nearly 50,000 children were unable to learn to swim properly during the Corona period. That must change now. However, lost or old swimming pools make the task more difficult, as does the lack of staff in schools and swimming pools.
There are currently about 50,000 children across the state of Hesse who, according to estimates by the German Life Saving Association (DLRG) and the state government, have not been able to learn to swim due to the pandemic. “We’re pushing a traffic jam for non-swimmers,” says a DLRG spokesperson.
Now the backlog will be compensated. The DLRG, along with other associations, billiard operators and clubs, invited them to tally and record the swimming tests they passed, thereby obtaining accreditation as swimming training centers.
According to the Hessen Learns to Swim initiative website, there are 22 such centers, set up by sports federations and the state government. About 10,000 swimming badges have been picked up since last summer, says Michael Hohmann, president of the DLRG State of Hesse.
60 pigeons participate in swimming badge day
In order to advance children’s swimming training, the DLRG State Association as well as the Hessian Swimming Association and the state government launched the first Hessian-wide Swimming Badge Day. More than 60 congregations wanted to take part in the campaign across the country on Sunday, Sports Minister Peter Booth (CDU) announced. This idea was also adopted by other federal states, including Bavaria, Baden-Württemberg and Rhineland-Palatinate. The first national swimming badge day is planned for next year.
“The ability to swim is not just fun, it’s also very important,” Booth explained. Since swimming pools were temporarily closed during the Corona pandemic, parents did not have the opportunity to teach their children to swim during this time. The minister said it must now be compensated. The state swimming association hopes to distribute 1,000 swimming badges during the workday.
In the fight against a “generation of non-swimmers” – which the DLRG warns – there are many obstacles to overcome. Lost or outdated pools make the task more difficult, as does the shortage of staff in schools and swimming pools, especially two years after the pandemic, and most recently, rising energy costs, making swimming pools more expensive to maintain.
A show for primary school children showing the first successes
The operator of Fulda’s pools, Rhön Energie and the DLRG district in Fulda-Oshessen, still wants to take the power tour. Together they launched “Swim4you” about a year ago, which greatly expanded the range of swimming courses for children of primary school age.
The advantage of cooperation: qualified trainers on the one hand and access to the required water spaces on the other. The program was met with a tremendous response from parents, said Michael Lebos, DLRG District President and Rhön Energie employee. At the beginning of “Swim4you” the goal was to teach 600 children from the area how to swim.
The show quickly increased to 1,000 children, and now 739 have participated in nearly 100 courses offered at Fulda Pools. However, the initial goal of driving as many boys and girls into the seahorse as possible had to be quickly reduced because many of the children simply did not have the physical requirements to do so.
Many children with mobility impairments
Lipus attributes this to changing recreational behavior with increased media consumption and less exercise, especially during lockdown. Before that, according to his estimates, about 80 percent of children who participated in beginner swimming courses successfully completed the seahorse test – only then less than 60 percent due to reduced coordination and mobility. This also led to the appearance of doctors and health authorities at the scene.
But anyway, a seahorse is just kind of your first entry ticket into the water, says Lebos. “A seahorse is nothing more than that the kid somehow swims around a corridor, 25 meters at best, and can dive a little bit.” Only after the bronze medal for the swimming badge – the former “freestyle swimmer” – can one speak of safe swimmers.
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