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Thursday, May 19, 2022

“Children came back fatter from the pandemic”

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During the week, Lars Sperling sits in the Landessportbund Berlin (LSB) in Schöneberg and has a lot to tell. It is about the consequences of the coronavirus pandemic in sport. Sperling placed yellow markers on his many notes. He is halfway through presenting himself when he is asked to finish so the others can also speak.

Sperling is the office manager of the Kaizen Berlin judo club and has experienced a lot in recent years. The virus, measures to protect against infection, resignations from the club, strategies to win back former members, financial concerns, bureaucratic efforts to mitigate them and, and, and. Sperling had to put a lot of passion and energy into keeping the store running. That’s why he has so many sheets of paper with him.

But it is above all a phrase of his that sticks: “The children came back fatter from the pandemic.” Like many other areas of society, sport has had to suffer in recent years. It dimmed, especially in width, and was completely suspended for long periods. “Sport took place. Polar bears, foxes and Hertha played”, says LSB president Thomas Härtel. This is how the impression was created: sport did not particularly suffer. “But many children and young people suffered. .” In other words: competitive sport was given more importance than popular sport.

Haertel, together with the director of LSB, Friedhard Teuffel, animated the press round with some representatives of the club to spread good news about sport in Berlin. And there are: Sport in the capital is moving again, even growing. Of the 33,000 members who left the clubs in the first year of the pandemic, two-thirds have returned. The Berlin clubs currently have 684,298 members. This is an increase of 3.4 percent or Schnaps’ number of 22,222 members compared to the previous year. The figures are the result of LSB statistics as of January 1, 2022.

Big drop in membership

Appointed club representatives like Sperling also have good things to report. Sperling reports that there have been massive drops in membership in the full contact sport of judo, including Kaizen. The losses have already been recovered. And not only that: Kaizen was able to win a few more coaching positions. The club even came out of the pandemic stronger.

The need welds and makes inventive. Digital training videos would replace normal on-site training, which was no longer allowed. But above all: “We communicate with each other more than ever,” says Sperling.

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And Christopher Krähnert from Berlin TSC can’t even “get off the waiting list”. More people want to join his club than he can accommodate. “If we had more options, doubling our membership wouldn’t be a problem,” he says. Krähnert also refers to the sports facilities available, but also to the staff.

Professional clubs like Füchse Berlin were allowed to continue under certain conditions during the pandemic.Photo: imago images/Nordphoto

Coaches and volunteer assistants in particular are fleeing the sport across the board. The pandemic reinforced this development. “The question of volunteering will play a central role for us in the future,” says LSB president Haertel. In addition, schools experiencing teacher shortages are increasingly poaching organized sports coaches. However: After the years of frustration caused by the pandemic, there is a spirit of optimism in popular sport.

Club departures in health sport have not been compensated to this day

But not all clubs did as well as Kaizen or Berliner TSV. A call to Sabine Hürdler from Vital Lichtenberg. “Whether we get through the pandemic well remains to be seen,” she says. “We’re still struggling with that.” Vital Berlin offers health sports, ie prevention or rehabilitation courses. As with other clubs with a similar portfolio, memberships at Vital are more course related. This means that if a course is cancelled, there is little reason for members to stay. In health sports, for example, there have been massive resignations from clubs that have not been able to be compensated until today. This is also the case with Vital Berlin.

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Sabine Hürdler reports on many difficult months at Vital Berlin. Sport, which is so important to many people, might sometimes not be offered at all, sometimes greatly reduced for several months. It was also a difficult time for the coaches. The number of course participants was significantly reduced due to infection protection measures, which means that the number of courses had to be increased. “Sometimes coaches had to teach twice as many courses as before the pandemic,” says Hürdler. “With the same salary.” But Hürdler doesn’t want to complain too much. On the contrary, she is also grateful. “Without public funding for sport, we would no longer exist.”

Vital is now about recovering the lost members. The trend is going in the right direction. This applies to all organized sports in Berlin anyway.

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