Lauren (6 years old) had to wait over a year for swimming lessons – every ditch is now a danger

Those duck ditches that filled her neighborhood lost their magic in the meantime. When Melanie van den Bosse, 33, came to live in Hoogeveen in Drenthe ten years ago, all that water still had a bit of a friendly vibe. But now, after two children, it mainly reflects the risk of drowning. What if one of her children had accidentally ended up in such a ditch?

This fear will persist for some time, because although you can start swimming lessons in the Netherlands at the age of four, her daughter Lauren (6,5 years old) has not yet received her diplomas. “Actually, she is at an age where she could only play outside, but we don’t dare play because of the trenches,” van den Bos says. Her daughter Lauren finally started swimming lessons this week after 13 months on the waiting list. “She loves him.”

Like Lorraine, they are estimated to number in the thousands in the Netherlands. People from the world of swimming I don’t remember waiting that long before that. Although no records are kept of how long children should wait on average, there is an inventory of norwegian refugee council, He’s been in contact with more than a dozen pools across the country, and waiting a year is no exception.

Lockdowns in the time of Corona act as a catalyst. The pools had to be closed for months, which made the queue longer and longer. Even before the pandemic, children often had to wait a while before they could start swimming, because there weren’t enough swimming coaches. This shortage has been increased by the current, even more tight labor market.

Lauren sure doesn’t walk in seven locks at once. But what happens when the ball rolls in the water?

Lauren, daughter of Melanie van den Bos, got a place to study at a nearby commercial pool in 2021, until she suddenly “pulled school”. It was a protest against the then-mandatory QR code check. About a hundred other children in Hoogeveen have the same problem. “This is awful, in this swimming pool they thought the anti-corona name was more important than the safety of children,” says van den Bos.

Later, she was on the waiting list at a physical therapy center, which also offers classes. This pool had to be closed because energy costs became too high. They are hanging like “the sword of Damocles” over the swimming pool industry, says Titus Visser, director of the National Swimming Safety Council, who has seen many swimming pools closed for this reason. We don’t know how it will develop yet, but I’m very concerned.


It is clear that swimming lessons in the Netherlands prevent deaths. In 1950, nearly three hundred children drowned, and now there are an average of seven on a yearly basis for a decade. Meanwhile, as a result of the flood disaster (1953), swimming lessons became popular, and school swimming became a part of school life in the 1970s.

Visser knows that there are far more children drowning in other countries than here. But the National Swimming Safety Council is concerned: Will deaths rise again now that children learn to swim later? Some pools raise the age at which children can start swimming lessons from four to five, so that waiting lists seem shorter.

Visser points out that the great need for swimming lessons is causing the emergence of cowboys in the industry. “Because of the tight job market, there are providers who set the standards at a lower level, so you can get unqualified people on the edge of the bathroom.” Some agencies offer one-week internships, after which students can begin teaching. “This is a concern.”

There is no legal basis

According to the National Swimming Safety Council, someone must have completed at least relevant MBO3 training. But education is not a requirement to give swimming lessons. “In the Netherlands, we don’t have any legal rules when it comes to giving swimming lessons.” A study conducted by the TV program Radar showed that children sometimes get a swimming certificate when they are not yet swimming proficient. There is no legal definition of what a swimming certification entails. Visser fears an increase in the number of children with insufficient swimming skills.

Illustration by Myrthe van Heerwaarden

As long as there are waiting lists, many pools offer “free hours” for children who have not yet started their lessons. That can be very helpful, Visser says. “Once the kids get used to the water, they become ‘waterless.’ And then they are no longer afraid of the water once they start swimming lessons.” But parents should not think that they can teach their children to swim on their own. “It’s a profession.”

Visser believes that waiting lists could be eliminated if it became more attractive to become a swimming coach. “Employers in the swimming industry are doing their best to oblige people. Better contracts and attractive working conditions. But there are still plenty of vacancies.”

for investment

Swimming lessons are especially available for assertive parents who want to invest a lot of time or money. Some people with young children commute to pools more than an hour’s drive away, van den Boss notes. I’ve also heard about the cost of “leave courses”. “During the Christmas holidays, there were parents who had their sons graduated in two weeks. They were taught a few hours every day. You can’t learn to swim safely that way.”

Mother Melanie van den Bos says Lauren is definitely not “in seven locks at once.” But what happens when the ball rolls in the water? Do you follow it after that out of enthusiasm? She continues, “We used to joke about our two-year-old daughter. Maybe we should also enroll her in swimming lessons.”

Leave a Comment