Van almsick gets kids into the pool

Almost two out of three ten-year-olds in germany cannot swim, according to a representative forsa survey. At sinnberg elementary school, the situation is even worse: more than 70 percent of the children are unable to swim: "we have so many non-swimmers in the third and fourth grades," she says, 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 have to do something already in the second grade", she says. The school is supported by the family hotel sonnenhugel in reiterswiesen and by ex-professional swimmer franziska van almsick.

The city’s indoor swimming pool is well utilized in the mornings. According to the city hall, eight schools from the city 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 management looked for other swimming pools, 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.

The issue also concerns multiple olympic medalist, world and european champion and world record swimmer franziska van almsick. "Any child who can’t swim can potentially drown", she says. Drowning is the second leading cause of death among children. So the 41-year-old has set up her own foundation with which she is involved in the issue. The declared goal is for every child in germany to master at least one type of swimming.

Complex problem

Van almsick now also came to bad kissingen through this commitment. The hotel sonnenhugel and sinnberg elementary school held a rough action day yesterday. The ten swimmers in the 2c class had the opportunity to train together with the ex-professional – colorful water fun against a serious background.

"We got ourselves into a situation that’s hard to get out of," she says, 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 confronted with long waiting times 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 hand, one in four elementary schools has no access to suitable swimming pools. Expensive maintenance and inadequate renovations force communities to close their swimming pools because they cannot finance both – in the district of bad kissingen, munnerstadt and wildflecken can sing a song about it.

"A complex rethinking must take place. The issue has to 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 familotel group, to which the sonnenhugel belongs, is such a partner. "We have noticed how the subject of swimming school has become more and more prevalent in our hotels, because it is no longer offered in kindergartens and schools", says chairman of the board sebastian ott. 51 familotel hotels now offer swimming schools. The idea: teach kids to swim while their parents are on vacation.

Hotel director hans markwalder provides the school with the bathroom free of charge. A swimming instructor employed by the hotel also supports the project. The swiss hotelier does not want to accept the high percentage of non-swimmers. "I thought to myself, this can not be true. That didn’t happen 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", said. However, pool operators in particular had good reason to get more involved: after all, they create potential customers for the future with swimming courses.


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