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 2011
Virginia Hunt Newman International Award winner...

Laurie Lawrence Laurie Lawrence

It seems that Laurie Lawrence may have a touch of chlorine in the blood and was always destined to be a teacher and coach of swimming. As a young boy his father managed the Tobruk pool in Townsville, NSW. The family lived above the pool entrance where he was exposed to Australia’s dominance of International swimming when the Australian Olympic team trained there prior to the 1956 Olympic Games. In those early days he hunted and treasured autographs from Australian swimming legends Dawn Fraser, Jon Henricks, Murray Rose, Lorraine Crapp, David Thiele, and other Australian Olympians. Laurie fondly remembers giving his bed to Jon Henricks when the Lawrence family billeted Henricks during the 1956 Olympic training camp.

As a young man he left the pool to complete his studies a Diploma in Physical Education. He represented Australia in rugby before becoming a swimming teacher and coach. His quest for perfection saw his swimmers win world championships, break world records and win Olympic gold medals. He was Australia’s sports coach of the year and inducted into ISHOF as an Honor Coach in 1996.Since his first Olympic Games in 1984, he has been an integral part of the Australian Olympic team now through London in 1912, his eighth Games.

His passion for baby swimming began with the birth of his first daughter Jane in 1975. He purchased Virginia Hunt Newman’s book and the journey began. After seeing Jane’s success, he documented Kate, his next daughter’s progress on film. Emma his youngest continued the passion and research into baby swimming and now as young women Jane, Kate and Emma all work in the family business.

Emma and Laurie spent five years documenting and creating as a resource for swimming teachers all round the world with a particular emphasis on infant aquatics based on progressive skill development determined by the growth and development of the child. Laurie’s first grandchild, Evie, has inspired the creation of a newly released iphone, ipad app for swimming teachers and parents. This app will add to the three video Dads , three books, and online swimming teaching resources already created by Laurie.

His internationally acclaimed Water Safety Program “Kids Alive Do the Five” has seen drowning in Australia plummet from 63 in the year 2000 to 33 in 2010. His latest Kids Alive Water Safety DVD “Living with Water” has been done in conjunction with the Australian Government as a drowning prevention measure for children under five. It is being given to the parents of every newborn in Australia for four years as a drowning prevention measure. To date more than 800,000 DVDs have been distributed in Australia and he eagerly awaits Australia’s drowning statistics later in the year to judge the success of this latest project.

Previous Award Recipients...

2010 Daniel Zylberberg, Ph.D.
2009 Francoise Freedman, Ph.D.
2008 José Fontanelli
2007 Yoko Yagishita
2006 Terje Stakset
2005 Steve Graves
2004 Rob McKay


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