For almost 50 years John Spannuth has been a leader and
innovator in almost every field of aquatics, including Adapted Aquatics, working
with and developing programs for persons with disabilities. From his first
full time job in aquatics in 1956 as Aquatics Director of the Reading, PA, YMCA,
he has developed outstanding programs. He has been the Aquatics Director
and Head Swimming Coach for Phillips Petroleum Co., developing one of the best
age group teams in the country; the National Aquatics Administrator for the AAU,
where he organized the first Masters national competition; the International
Director of the Special Olympics for Eunice Shriver in Washington, D.C.; and the
director of aquatics, sports and recreation in Bahrain and Saudi Arabia.
John is the creator and founder of many innovative programs and
conferences including: The World Swimming Coaches Clinic 1969, which is now run
by the American Swimming Coaches Association; Masters Swimming (1970), where he
implemented Ransom Arthur's ideas and decrees to begin a competitive fitness
program for adults; Masters Synchronized Swimming (1975); National YMCA Masters
Aquatic Championship (1976); Water Walking as a program (1986), which began as a
water fitness program for individuals who were not great swimmers or who needed
water therapy work; National Aquatics Directors Certification (1996); National
Programs Award (recognizing the top programs in the country); Top Water Fitness
Programs (1990); Top Aquatic Programs (1997); Top Water Exercise Program (1998);
and National and State Leadership Awards (1990).
One of the major influences that helped to inspire John to
include all Americans in aquatics, regardless of abilities or disabilities, was
a conversation that he had with Clarence Pendelton in 1950. Mr. Pendelton
was Aquatics Director at Howard University and on the CNCA Board of Directors
with John. Mr. Pendelton convinced John that, "The average aquatic program
in the United States is designed for and includes young healthy white children."
He said, "Go to the average swimming pool on a Sunday afternoon and who do you
see? Young, healthy, white children." He asked John to help him to
change this. As a result, John developed a philosophy that everybody in
the world should be in a swimming pool, including people with various
disabilities. Since then, John has gone on to promote aquatic activities
for people with disabilities; Pendelton went on to be named chairman of the
National Civil Rights Commission by President Reagan.
John's first experience of conducting an adapted swimming class
was when he was the Aquatic Director of the Reading (PA) YMCA in 1956.
In 1977 when Louise Priest wrote a book, Adapted Aquatics,
for the National Red Cross, John served on the editorial committee along with
other leaders in adapted aquatics.
One of John's greatest accomplishments was to work successfully
with a wide variety of national organizations at the first ever National Adapted
Aquatics Summit held in Fort Lauderdale May 10-12, 2001, which John organized
and directed. As a result of that conference a five year plan for
promoting Adapted Aquatics programs was established. At the same time John
helped John K. Williams, Jr. Chairperson of ISHOF's Adapted Aquatics Committee
to organize and conduct a national meeting of the ISHOF committee.
Spannuth has been a speaker at various national conferences
regarding adaptive aquatics over the past 50 years. The U.S. State
Department sponsored a trip to Brazil, where John conducted a national
conference regarding physical education, recreation and sports for people with
disabilities. The United States national wheelchair basketball team
accompanied John to give demonstrations and answer questions.
John has been on the Advisory Board of the Disability
International Foundation (DIF) for a number of years. He was a featured
speaker and panel member at their national fitness and rehabilitation conference
held in Longview, Washington (2003); he was awarded DIF's Sevier-McCayhill
National Award for outstanding service to youth with disabilities and he was
awarded a Career Achievement Award by DIF for the development of education,
sports and specific population (2004). The award recognized John's
extraordinary leadership as Executive Director of the International Special
Olympics, during which time, with the help of June Krauser, he wrote the general
rules and sports rules for Special Olympics competition.
John first met John K. Williams, Jr. in Reading, PA in 1975 at a
national aquatic conference and for the past 30 years had been one of John K.'s
Previous Award Recipients...
Elizabeth "Libby" Andersen
Dr. Monica Lepore
Dr. Julian Stein
Mary Essert (El Cerrito, CA)
Mary Essert is the founder of Mary Essert and
Associates, maker of many videos and tapes on water fitness, founder of
"Move It or Lose It" and active with Grace Reynolds at the YMCA.
Ruth Sova (Port Washington, WI)
Ruth Sova is founder of the Aquatic Exercise
Association (AEA) and the Aquatic Therapy and Rehab. Institution.
She is a well-known entrepreneur and speaker around the world.
Louise Priest (Indianapolis, IN)
Louise Priest is the mother of adaptive aquatics.
She wrote the Red Cross aquatic materials and is now Director of Communications
with the Jeff Ellis Organization.
Grace Reynolds (Longview, WA)
Grace Reynolds was head of "Swimming for Special
Populations" for the national YMCA for years and head of "Project Aquatics"
and "Project Aquatics Mainstreaming". She is founder/president of
Disability International Foundation (DIF).
John K. Williams, Jr. (San Diego, CA)
John K. Williams, Jr. graduated from San Diego
State University with a B.A. degree in Therapeutic Recreation and is now
an aquatic consultant. Speaker at numerous workshops on Adaptive
Aquatics, he spends his summers working at Camp Able.