John K. Williams, Jr. International Adapted Aquatics Award
Honoring An Individual Serving Persons With Disabilities

Established in 1994 by the Adaptive Aquatics Committee of the International Swimming Hall of Fame this award honors an individual who has made significant and substantial contributions to the field of adaptive aquatics (aquatics for persons with disabilities) as a participant, athlete, teacher, instructor, coach, organizer, administrator or media representative.  


Phillip Conatser

For almost 20 years, Phillip Conatser has worked to advance the field of Adapted Aquatics through his teachings, publications, presentations and research.

Phillip received his Baccalaureate Degree from West Texas A & M University in 1989 and his Masters Degree from Texas Tech University. He immediately served as an adapted physical education specialist for the Lubbock Texas Independent School District where he worked with different disability populations including autistic, mentally retarded, orthopedically handicapped, emotionally behaviorally disturbed, cerebral palsy, multiple sclerosis and learning disabled. His involvement went beyond the schools to homes and hospitals from grades K – 12. During this period, he was the school district Therapy Pool Supervisor.

Next at the South Plains Educational Coop in Levelland, Texas, he performed the same functions with children and adults ages 2 – 21. All the while, he coached many Special Olympic sports including swimming. In 1999, he earned a PhD in Adapted Physical Activity, Statistics and Infant & Family Intervention at the University of Virginia. Then, after a year at Slippery Rock University where he taught classes in Adapted Physical Activity, Aquatics and Adapted Physical Aquatics and Rehabilitation, Phillip moved back to Texas and became an Assistant Professor in the Area of Adapted Physical Activity and Biometrics at West Texas A & M University.

Phillip has delivered over fifteen research papers at conference proceedings and written over twenty-six articles appearing in numerous periodicals. He has given over twenty international presentations and thirty-two state and national presentations. He has presided over twenty-two workshops, reviewed over twelve publications, served on eighteen professional committees and helped devise numerous courses in Adapted Aquatics.

As an athlete, Phillip was a Four Year Letterman in football at West Texas A & M earning Outstanding Defense Player of the Year honors his last year. He also tried out for the Denver Broncos at their training camp and participated in NCAA Track and Gymnastics.

Phillip saw a need for a normative assessment tool for adapted aquatics. He collected data and then published the Conatser Adapted Aquatics Swimming Screening Test. This useful assessment tool provided normative data on swimming development of children with different disabilities. This instrument has been used worldwide and has provided a simple yet effective way for aquatic instructors to chart the abilities and progress of their students. Additionally, he has collected, presented and submitted data both nationally and internationally on attitudes and aquatic instructors towards inclusive swim programs. This groundbreaking research shed new light on the attitudes and perceived needs of aquatic instructors towards including children with disabilities in general swim programs.

His warm, friendly, down-to-earth personality is engaging to everyone he meets. He is willing to help in virtually any situation from writing a research paper to helping set up the pool for someone else’s class. Presently, Phillip is an Assistant Professor in the Program Area of Adapted Physical Activity and Adapted Aquatics at the University of Texas Brownsville. 

Previous Award Recipients...
John Spannuth

Dori Maxon

Elizabeth "Libby" Andersen

Anne Green

Dr. Monica Lepore

Uri Bergman


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.


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