Many people cherish warm childhood memories of visits to a swimming paradise. But according to experts, we swim less and less. Minister Bruno Bruins of Medical Care and Sport wants to make the 'Dutch swimming culture' flourish with a new National Swimming Safety Plan. What is the status of recreational swimming in the Netherlands?

The smell of chlorinated water and the roaring echo of pop music immediately evokes memories of the childhood swimming paradise of some people. But several studies from the Mulier Institute, specialized in sports participation, signal that fewer people are swimming.

The number of schools that offer school swimming is also declining. In 1991, 90 percent of the schools took their students to the swimming pool. Fifteen years later this was only 32 percent. The swimming lessons were cut back or the schools no longer thought it necessary because most children were already able to swim when they went to primary school.

Many more leisure activities have been added

In addition, an afternoon of playing in the wave pool with fries to finish off is no longer the first outing that parents think of. The range of activities has grown considerably.

The tourism, recreation and leisure trend report published by Statistics Netherlands this week shows that water sports, such as swimming, are one of the less frequently practiced leisure activities. Shopping, going out, events such as festivals are all higher. "You can do a lot now, from the cinema to boat camps," says researcher Corry Floor of the Mulier Institute. We expect that this will reduce the use of the swimming pools somewhat. "

"We often see that children go to a different sport once they have achieved their swimming diploma" Joeri Hendrigs, Hofspetters Foundation

Joeri Fredriks of Stichting Hofspetters also notices that children often prefer to do something else. This organization encourages children to keep swimming, even after they have obtained their swimming diploma. "But we have to pull that," says Fredriks. "We see that children often go to a different sport, such as football, once they have achieved their swimming diploma."

In addition, many families experience the entrance fee of the swimming paradise as a threshold, the Mulier Institute sees. More than half of the young people say they would go to the swimming pool more often if the tickets were cheaper.

Swimming as a mermaid or in the sea

Stichting Hofspetters wants as many children as possible to continue swimming after obtaining their diploma. That is why the organization has set up special programs. For example mermaid swimming or training on the beach. These new forms of swimming appeal to children more than 'normal' swimming. "Especially mermaid swimming is very popular," says Fredriks.

If it is up to Minister Bruno Bruins of Medical Care and Sport, everyone in the Netherlands will go swimming more often. Not only because it is a fun, active outing, but also because it is useful. At the moment, two thirds of Dutch children are not swimming well enough to achieve the National Swimming Safety Standard (diploma A, B and C).