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  • What is ESB Octopus?
    The ESB Octopus is the swimming competition team of all five European Schools of Brussels (Uccle, Berkendael, Woluwé, Ixelles, and Laeken). It exists for more than 30 years and gives the students of the European schools in Brussels an excellent opportunity to compete together independently of which school they attend, and this in both individual races and as a team. The team participates to the “European Forces Swimming League” (EFSL), together with teams spread over most of Western Europe at the NATO and American bases – and another international school in Berlin. This allows us to travel, as we for example did in February 2018, participating in the EFSL Championship at the Olympic Pool in London, or last season (2019-2020) to Berlin, Lisbon, Wiesbaden or Eindhoven. Currently there are 18 swimming teams affiliated to the EFSL, representing more than 1,000 swimmers throughout Europe. These teams are located in Belgium, Germany, Italy, Portugal, Spain, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom. The ESB Octopus is part of the Benelux Division of the EFSL, and most competitions are held in Brussels (CERIA and NATO), Mons (SHAPE) or Geilenkirchen (The Netherlands). Some longer trips are organised during the season, to compete against teams from the other divisions, like Rheinland and Southern Europe. We believe that meeting with other teams at a competition is an extremely valuable cultural and social exchange, consistent with the values of the European Schools.
  • Who can swim at ESB Octopus?
    All pupils and students of the European Schools (and those eligible) can join the team. The only conditions are: The age of the swimmer. Generally, the youngest swimmers in the team are in the 2nd year primary, and the oldest swimmers permitted by the EFSL are those who have their 19th birthday in the calendar year of the beginning of the season. To study in any of the European Schools of Brussels or being allowed to do so (e.g. because one or both parents work at EU institutions). There are no trials to select the swimmers, but it is of course strongly recommended to have a certain technical level: at least to be able to swim 50 meters in at least two strokes in competition conditions, and to be able to dive. It is also highly recommended to train at least once or twice per week, depending on the age of the swimmer. Competitions are held using US technical rules, and these are interpreted strictly even for the younger swimmers. But do not be scared! There are swimmers of all levels in the competitions, especially amongst the youngest. The main objective is to progress and to enjoy swimming, with fair play and with a team spirit.
  • Are there trainigs organised?
    The European Schools don't have their own swimming pool and therefore the swimmers have to train in either a local club, or with the European school périscolaires – notably those of the European School of Uccle, Césame, where some of the team coaches are also the trainers. The organisation of the trainings in Cesame is however distinct from the organisation of the ESB Octopus. ESB takes care of the competitions only, not of the trainings during every week. However, every year ESB swimmers can register at Césame trainings in priority during two weeks. Some team trainings and stages are organised for all swimmers during the season. Participation is not compulsory, but they are an occasion for team building and to improve techniques. In particular, stages are organised in the beginning of the season and just before the end of season Championships held end of February/Beginning of March. These stages and trainings are not included in the ESB fee (see below).
  • How is a swimming competition at the EFSL?
    Usually, in each competition, there are maximum three individual races per swimmer, plus maximum two relays. Swimmers are classed by age categories and gender, the relays being mixed (2 girls and 2 boys). Due to the number of age categories and heats, competitions length more or less between 9h and 16h. Results are normally published during the competition and sent and published some days after. Swimmers are always accompanied with the ESB coaches and volunteer parents during the competitions and the trips. Parents’ volunteering is always necessary to carry-out the meets and the team (see below). There are qualifying times to access to individual races of the finals (“Champs”), which use to be held at the Olympic pool of Eindhoven the last week-end of February-First of March. There are also B-times (“temps de repêche”) which may give access to the finals. Although we aim at improving as much as possible and increase the opportunities to win at Champs, the main purpose of the team is to make the swimmers enjoy competition and be proud of their achievements independent of their level. All swimmers who have participated in at least four meets during the season are allowed to participate at the relays at Champs. The calendar of competitions starts in September and finishes with the Champs, early March.
  • Must swimmers participate in all competitions?
    Participation to competitions is volunteer. There is no obligation to participate in all or even a minimum number of competitions. However, to swim at Champs, a minimum of 4 participations in competitions during the season is requested by the EFSL.
  • Should swimmers who already compete with a local club abandon it to join ESB?
    No. There are indeed several ESB Octopus swimmers who compete at the same time with their local club in the Belgian league and with the ESB at the EFSL.
  • How is ESB Octopus managed? What is the role of parents?
    The ESB Octopus is a non-profit organisation, which legal base is an “association sans but lucrative” (asbl) under Belgian Law, which establishes all liabilities (economic, insurances, etc.). The asbl is managed by administrators, who are also volunteers. The asbl arrives to the end of its mandate this season 2022-2023 and must be replaced – volunteers are therefore needed. The running of the team, as well as of the whole EFSL, is based on parents’ volunteering and cannot function without this. We always need volunteers, both at the competitions (officials, timers, marshalling, catering in home meets, etc.) and to manage the team and its logistics (ESB committee and asbl administrators). There is a fee to pay at the beginning of the season (€350 in 2022-2023, with 10% reduction for each brother or sister), to cover the membership to the EFSL, the remuneration of the coaches, the one day trips for both kids and parents, the rental of the swimming pool when the competition is organised by us (traditionally at CERIA, this season 2022-2023 at SHAPE or Geilenkirchen) and other administrative expenses. Team t-shirt and team swim cap are included. The annual fee does not include the team trainings, the stages and the trips that include a night of hotel or more. As explained above, parents have to support the running of the team with different small tasks during the competitions, both at home and when visiting other teams, like being officials (which requires a training), timing, marshalling or helping with the catering when the races are organised by the ESB. The ESB also need volunteers to manage the team, i.e. being part of the ESB committee: organising trips, communication, relationship with the EFSL, etc. Since 2020-2021, parents must be volunteers for at least 3 full days or 6 half days per family during the season. The ESB Committee ensures the essential tasks of the Team: organisation of meets, recruitment, liaison with the other Teams within the EFSL, outreach, catering at our home meets, statistics, maintaining of the website and alike. A call for volunteers for the Committee is always open.
  • Calendar and trips
    The competition and trips calendar is known in May. Registration for next season will be open then. Since 2020-2021 season, for more than one-day trips, the ESB Committee will organise the logistics in May and swimmers are strongly recommended to register and to book their flights before summer. Registrations will remain open in September, but the ESB Committee cannot guarantee that there will be places available in hotels and the flights are very likely to be more expensive. In any case, the ESB Committee will try to find hotels and logistics with the maximum flexibility.
  • How do I register to competitions?
    For all competitions, ESB swimmers and/or parents receive an e-mail a few weeks before indicating the logistics. The e-mail includes a form that has to be filled on time. Several competitions are held in the swimming pools of military bases, like SHAPE or NATO. The security conditions are strict and those not registered within the deadlines will be unable to enter.
  • Other activities
    Once the season has ended, the ESB uses to participate at the Splash (a charity organised in March by the Lions Club: and tries to organise a Sprint Meet in May-June, a friendly competition to show to potential newcomers what a swimming meet looks like. The Sprint Meet is organised by the own ESB swimmers, who take care about timing, marshalling, etc., with the support of their parents and coaches. In the last years, this Sprint Meet has not been organised because no swimming pool was available in Brussels. There is also an annual ESB Party in May-June and generally there is a friendly competition with other teams of the Benelux Division.
  • How do I register to ESB Octopus?
    If you wish to register to ESB, send an e-mail to and we will send you back a form to complete (complete name, date of birth and school of your son(s), as well as phone and e-mail contact(s) of the parents). Once the confirmation received, you can pay the annual fee at the ESB bank account. All communication between the team and the parents and swimmers is done through e-mail. Please check your address is correct! Note that the priority period to register at Césame will only be given if the annual fee is paid.
  • Any other questions?
    Please send us an e-mail to, or use the contact form in the "Information" tab.
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