School slag: the secret is to never, ever, ever let your head anywhere near the water.
In an effort to starve off the ever expanding belgian-beer related belly, I decided to make for the pool and rekindle an old love of swimming. I started off attempting to do laps at the local pools of Ghent, only to find that most of them were occupied by the Belgians that had lacked the desire to get wet let alone swim.
Belgians, on a whole, absolutely despise swimming pools. Some of them might attend one out of guilt (beer-belly), social pressure (schools), or hormones (people in speedos), but very few of them actually go to their local pool to swim.
All this was true, however, until I discovered the Rozebroeken, built in 2011 in the eastern outskirts of Ghent. Rozebroeken is an indoor 50 meter pool, with an incredible pool floor that is able to be raised and lowered from half a meter to a full two meter depth. Unlike the rest of the pools in the country, Rozebroeken makes very strict use of ‘lane ropes’, and encourages swimmers to swim laps instead of diagonal dog paddling.
All this however doesn’t change the Belgian approach to swimming. The majority of swimmers that attend the Rozebroeken swimming pool still thoroughly enjoy not getting wet, and will do their outmost best to keep their heads as far away from the creepy depths below. This is usually made possible with ‘school slag’ (their choice of words, not mine), which is a variation on breaststroke where the head is never placed under water. Instead of making the thrusting dive forward upon the completion of the stroke, the Belgian school slag swimmer thrusts his (or even her!) head as high as possible in an effort to raise the body fully out of the water and as close as possible to the pool exit.
It was during a moment of shaking my head at a good eighteen of these swimmers in my lane alone that I realized I had to do something about it. I just had to learn Dutch first. Two years later, I’ve started an IT consultancy (oh yes, that happened too. I should really blog on this some more sometime?) studied a whole bunch o’ dutch and have been working with quite some time in the middle of Flanders with a variety of dialects and mad folk. I thought I was ready to start some coaching.
So I wrote an email to the Royal Ghent Swimming Club confessing my case, and much to my shock received a pretty enthusiastic response asking me to come on down for an interview.
Slightly dull volunteer-job-recruitment-story cut short: I’m now a tentative swimming couch for thirty-one Flemish kids, starting off from tomorrow night. I’ve spent a good part of a week reading up on coach-tips and have had the fortune of hearing all about it first hand from some good friends of mine that have recently remembered their training past, and hope that some of this preperation, if any, will still be remembered or even slightly useful when I find myself in front of 30 squirming kids tomorrow afternoon.