Virginia Hunt Newman International Award


Virginia Hunt Newman has been called “The Mother of Infant Swimming.” She pioneered and focused worldwide attention on the non-forceful, non-traumatic method of teaching infants and preschool-age children to swim, earning great respect as an innovator in the field. She began her swimming career at the Indianapolis Athletic Club. From 1940 to 1948 she was a diver for the Los Angeles Athletic Club, winning swimming and diving titles. She performed in water shows with Johnny Weissmuller and Buster Crabbe for the USO. In 1950, Virginia wrote and directed a series of springboard diving films while working as an aquatic director and swimming coach at the Black Fox Military Academy in Los Angeles.

In 1962, she gained international attention when her star student, Bing Crosby’s daughter Mary Frances, passed the Red Cross Beginner Test at age two – the youngest ever to be awarded the certificate. Red Cross Honorary Chairman Johnny Weissmuller presented the certificate to Mary Frances on national television, with coverage by “Life,” “Look” and “Time” magazines. This was the catalyst for Virginia to compile her methods of non-traumatic teaching in her 1967 book, Teaching an Infant to Swim, a bestseller published in England, Australia, Germany, Sweden, Italy and Japan.

Teaching Young Children to Swim and Dive was published in 1969. Its method of teaching swimming by distracting children from normal fears associated with learning has been emulated by thousands of instructors worldwide. Some of the thousands of children taught by Virginia include those of John Wayne, Bob Hope, Alan Ladd, Bob Newhart, Sonny & Cher, Shari Lewis, and Danny DeVito & Rhea Pearlman. She has conducted numerous national and world clinics and workshops on teaching children to swim.

Presenting the 200
8 Virginia Hunt Newman International Award winner...

Jose Fontanelli

Jose Fontanelli

Swimming teacher José Fontanelli has a passion for baby swimming. ‘Affectionate’ describes his manner in having taught tens of thousands of young pupils over the past 40 years in his homeland of Sao Paulo, Brazil. ‘Fonta’ loves his babies!

Fontanelli uses research and technique in a variety of disciplines to speed the development and enhance the comfort of students and their parents who accompany them in the pool. Research has shown that children in vitro recognize different people outside the womb as well as their mother’s reaction to those people. Applying this, Fontanelli was among the first in the world to extend the ‘starting time’ for a baby swimming to the pre-natal period – where expectant mothers come to the pool for movement and exercise experiences. After the baby is born, the mother returns for ‘baby & parent’ classes, now much more at ease in the environment.

Fontanelli has authored the book Between Pleasure and Technique – focusing on aquatic development of babies and toddlers. He has been featured in newspaper and magazine articles and is often a presenter at swim teacher conferences throughout Latin and South America. José has trained numerous teachers in his affectionate, child-centered, non-traumatic methods and has been the organizer of numerous educational conferences and training clinics on baby swimming and water exercise for pregnant mothers.

A former club swimmer and backstroke state record holder in Sao Paulo, Fontanelli graduated in physical education with specialization in swimming and additional training in pediatric emergency care.

Previous Award Recipients...

2007 Yoko Yagishita 2006 Terje Stakset 2005 Steve Graves 2004 Rob McKay


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