Lifeguards are urgently needed in many places, and some outdoor pools cannot open due to a lack of staff. This is bad for many non-swimmers. DLRG President Vogt calls for a round table with the federal, state and local authorities.

The new President of the German Life Saving Society (DLRG), Ute Vogt, sounds the alarm. “We assume that we now have two school years who cannot swim,” said the 57-year-old against the background of the lessons being canceled due to the corona pandemic.

There is a huge backlog demand for beginner swimming training. “The children are now in the 3rd grade and often haven’t seen the inside of the swimming pool unless their parents have organized it.”

Around 80 pools close every year

There shouldn’t be a school that doesn’t have a bathroom within easy reach. “We absolutely have to draw up a comprehensive pool requirements plan. Then the federal, state and local governments have to sit down and fill these gaps. The communities alone can’t do it,” says the 57-year-old. Around 80 pools close nationwide every year – countermeasures have to be taken. The big problem: The job of swimming or colloquially lifeguard is not very attractive for young people.

“The market is empty. Everyone is looking,” says Dirk Günther, Managing Director of Kurmittel GmbH Lüneburg. In addition, many do not even know what the job description entails. The relaxed guy at the edge of the pool with the whistle has long since had its day, the training is so comprehensive. Young people also didn’t necessarily want to work off-peak when their friends were partying. In addition, a high level of concentration is required for hours if a human life is to be saved.

Swimming lessons are rare

The crash courses in the summer holidays were sold out in and around Lüneburg in ten minutes. “Primary schools have massively cut back on swimming,” reports Günther. But the swimming pools could not catch everything due to a lack of staff, which was not possible, especially in the Corona lockdown.

Hamburg’s Baederland spokesman Michel Dietel reports that 30 percent of outdoor pools are currently closed: “We need staff, it’s the same everywhere in Germany.” Baederland has been taking over the school lessons in the Hanseatic city since 2006 and also offers make-up appointments during the holidays. Since the summer of 2021 there has been a swimming offensive because of Corona, which also includes intensive courses. “It’s an unusually difficult situation,” says Dietel.

“I’m glad if we can still open the baths at all”

The working hours of the swimming staff are similar to those in gastronomy, otherwise it is a very nice job with many people, says Eric Voss, Head of Training at the German Society for Swimming. Many also don’t even know that the training occupation offers both a journeyman’s and a master’s examination. “We’ll be happy if we can still open the baths at all,” says Voss. Many are in the country, so the absence of an employee is enough for the closure.

In 2018/19 there was a large increase in the training of swimming champions, and Corona caused many to migrate to other sectors. The student assistants have also become rare due to the over-school courses. Actually, the lifeguard is enough for the summer holiday job. “Many pools would be willing to pay for the lifeguard licenses,” emphasizes Voss.

“Saving, saving, saving is now catching up with us,” says Rüdiger Hinerasky from the Böhmetal baths company in Lower Saxony. There has been too little training in recent years and savings have been made on staff. In addition, young people deter the shift work. “Few trainees know what they are getting themselves into,” explains Hinerasky, who has known the spa landscape for 40 years.

“In the summer, friends sometimes have to stand back,” admits Florian Herbst from the forest swimming pool near Walsrode. But the fun in the outdoor pool and the different experiences outweigh the lack of weekends during the three-month season, says the 42-year-old swimming champion.

There are also no lifeguards on the coast

Because there are not enough lifeguards available, the DLRG is temporarily unable to monitor all sections of the beach on the North Sea and Baltic Sea. Only around 50 percent of the required volunteers are available, according to the spokesman for the DLRG Federal Association, Martin Holzhause.

Because of the pandemic, a complete year of trained lifeguards is missing. The training is now up and running again. Some DLRG swimmers would also drop out because they were catching up on study content or long-distance travel. The coasts of Lower Saxony, Schleswig-Holstein and Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania are similarly affected by the lack of volunteers. The situation is expected to ease with the start of the holidays.