Nearly two out of three ten-year-olds in germany can’t swim, according to a representative forsa survey. At sinnberg elementary school, the situation is even worse: almost three out of four children are unable to swim: "we have so many non-swimmers in the third and fourth classes", reports sports teacher christine steigmeier. The goal should be for every child to be able to swim by the time they leave school. "So we said we had to do something as early as the second grade", she says. The school is supported by the sonnenhugel family hotel in reiterswiesen and ex-professional swimmer franziska van almsick.
The city’s indoor pool is well utilized in the mornings. According to the town hall, eight schools from the town and the surrounding area use the pool for swimming lessons. Free capacities are only available on three weekdays between 1 and 2 p.M. So the school administration looked for other swimmers, approached clinics and hotels. After a long search, with success: "the hotel sonnenhugel has agreed to give us swimming times and a swimming instructor, says steigmeier. Since january, ten children from the all-day class 2c have learned to stay afloat in the hotel pool. "Now it’s up to the parents to move on", she finds.
This topic is also on the minds of multiple olympic medalist, world and european champion and world record swimmer franziska van almsick. "Every child who can’t swim can potentially drown", she says. Drowning is the second most common cause of death among children. So the 41-year-old has set up her own foundation to get involved in the issue. The declared goal is for every child in germany to master at least one type of swimming.
Van almsick now also came to bad kissingen as a result of this commitment. The hotel sonnenhugel and sinnberg elementary school held a rough action day yesterday. The ten swimming children of the 2c had the opportunity to train together with the ex-professional – colorful water fun against a serious background.
"We have maneuvered ourselves into a situation that is difficult to get out of", she says. The problem is very complex. Van almsick sees this as a social and political problem: there are children who learn a foreign language and an instrument from home at an early age, but not how to swim. If parents do get involved, they are faced with long waits for swimming lessons or have to resort to expensive private swimming schools. The swimming star sees a major problem in the infrastructure: on the one hand, germany is discussing air cabs; on the other, one in four elementary schools has no access to suitable bathing facilities. Expensive maintenance and expensive renovations are forcing communities to close their swimming pools because they can’t finance both – in the district of bad kissingen, munnerstadt and wildflecken can tell you the same story.
"A complex rethinking must take place. The subject must become a matter of course again", says van almsick. With her foundation, she wants to draw attention to this and support schools. That’s why it also cooperates with municipalities and swimming pool operators, for example.
Swimming school on vacation
The family hotel group, of which the sonnenhugel is a part, is one such partner. "We have noticed how the topic of swimming school has become more and more prevalent in our hotels, because it is no longer offered in kindergartens and schools", says the chairman of the board sebastian ott. 51 familotel hotels now offer swimming schools. The idea: teach the kids to swim while their parents are on vacation.
Hotel director hans markwalder makes the pool available to the school free of charge. A swimming instructor employed by the hotel also supports the project. Swiss hotelier refuses to accept high percentage of non-swimmers. "I thought to myself, this can’t be true. That didn’t exist in my day", he says. Swimming was one of the basic skills required for compulsory military service or for spending the summer with friends.
Van almsick praises the commitment: "it is not self-evident that people help out", she says. However, pool operators in particular had good reason to get more involved: after all, they create potential customers for the future with swimming courses.