NRW Swimming Courses: Parents search for places in vain

Find a swimming spot in NRW
4,000 kids are on the waiting list for a swimming course

Indoor pools, no staff and lack of providers: No swimming courses for tens of thousands of kids in NRW. Queues are very long. Finding a vacancy can take years.

In North Rhine-Westphalia, fewer and fewer parents are finding a place for their children on a swimming course. The epidemic has greatly exacerbated the problem. “We have 4,000 kids on the waiting list,” says Melanie Irakovic of the Dusseldorf Aquarium. “We have an increasing number of children who previously had little or no presence in the pool. More and more children are learning how to get used to the water in their first swim session, and it takes longer to learn to swim.”

The increasing demand for swimming courses for children is mainly due to closed swimming pools during the Corona period, and the lack of trainers and providers of these courses. According to the DLRG, there were about 50 percent fewer participants in the Beginner’s courses last year — and 70 percent fewer in the swim armband tests. And the situation was already tense before the pandemic: According to the DLRG, about 40 percent of kids by the end of primary school weren’t confident about swimming even before 2020.

There are no swimming courses at the state level – in cities and in the country. In Luelsdorf, the waiting time for a free place for children aged six to twelve is between three and four years old – at the DLRG. “As many parents appreciate our work for their children, the waiting list for children to be accepted is unfortunately very long,” says the local group in Luelsdorf.

The situation is also exacerbated by the permanent closure of swimming pools because municipalities can no longer afford to operate and there is no money for new buildings. Based on the most recent 2002 sports facility statistics, pools primarily suitable for swimming training and swimming in NRW declined 43 percent (614 outdoor, indoor, and pool) by 2021 thanks to the Pool Life Project. If this number refers only to swimming pools as a whole and does not yet allow any statement on the water surface suitable for swimming training, the trend according to the NRW Swimming Association is clear and has a negative impact on the water times required for swimming training.

Christoph Nessen, Chairman of the Board of Directors of the Sports Federation of North Rhine-Westphalia, recently took politics on board in an interview with our editors. “The state will have to help with the investments, the sport itself will have to take responsibility for the operator, and the municipalities must be willing to pay to subsidize the operating costs,” said Nissen. “Of course, the pigeons have to be somewhere in the end, so the land has to come from the local authorities. With this trinity, it can be successful,” continues Nessen.

At Dusseldorf aquatics, the waiting time for a free spot before the pandemic was between six and twelve months – and now it’s at least a year and a half. The problem has also been exacerbated by Corona because many swimming schools that had previously rented from municipal pools could not continue, according to Melanie Irakovic – often for cost reasons. Added to this is high energy prices, which, among other things, have lowered water temperatures by at least two degrees in many places. But this means that fewer children go to the water because it is too cold for them. Hence the number of children unaccustomed to water, “says Irakovich”, is less and less.

The DLRG worries that children’s swimming deficits will be difficult to compensate for. According to the DLRG, the effects that the Corona pandemic will have on children’s ability to swim in particular are anticipated with great concern. The state of North Rhine-Westphalia is trying to counter misery with a programme. This year’s Teen Swimming Training Show will be supported by 800 quality swimming courses. The state funds 400,000 euros for this purpose. The program is directed to students from first to sixth grade. In addition to the two-week vacation courses, swimming training can also be taught with small courses in the afternoons and Saturdays.


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