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Swimming for kids: sport or safety measure? Or both?

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Swimming organisations in the Netherlands are arguing about which stroke should be taught first to children. The organisation responsible for teaching children, the national swimming pool organisation, is a fan of the breast stroke because it can be sustained for longer and is easier to learn. The national swimming organisation is all for the front crawl and the back stroke and plans to introduce their own swimming certificates for children next year. The national swimming pool organisation is not happy about having some competition.

Why are they at odds? The swimming pool peeps believe in teaching children in the event that they fall into a canal, while the national swimming peeps see swimming as a sport. The chances of a child falling into a body of water and having to swim ashore for a long time are not very likely and so the breast stroke make sense. However, if a child wants to learn how to swim as a real skill, then the front crawl is usually a good primer.

As a well-versed swimmer (my butterfly stroke sucks), I can tell you that besides the strokes, staying afloat by treading water or floating on your back is very important for safety. As a child I also learnt how to give mouth to mouth and rescue someone while in the water, skills that people regularly use when you’re a Canadian on a lake in a canoe in the forest in a pre-mobile phone era, not a small child falling into a canal.

Why can’t these organisations coordinate their efforts? Then kids will learn how to excel at swimming and what to do if they or a friend falls into a canal. Only being able to save yourself doesn’t sound very noble.

(Link: www.dutchnews.nl, Photo looking across the nearby Wolderwijd from Harderwijk to Zeewolde, Flevoland, by Sjaak Kempe, some rights reserved)

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