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 2012
Virginia Hunt Newman International Award winner...

Niko Saito Niko Saito

Niko Saito is among the first to introduce baby swimming in Japan. She studied baby swimming with Esther Williams and Crystal Scarborough in Los Angeles in the 1960’s then established her own program for babies, young children, and pregnant women under the name Saito Aquatic Academy in Nagoya, Japan.

In the years following, she put a title to her aquatic instruction philosophy and methods calling them “Aquamics”. This system makes use of the water and rhythm to help children develop mentally as well as physically. Class activities pair swim activities with other learning and child development activities.

Live music flows as a musician plays a special keyboard poolside during classes. Students focus on special cards called “Pettanco” as they learn their colors, shapes, and musical notes as they also move about and swim around the pool. Songs are sung to the happy music, games are played among parents and their children, and toys grasp the attention of even the unsure student. There is plenty of pleasant stimulation for students during their Aquamics class.

Aquamics has brought forward in Japan the use of aquatic activities including baby swimming as a beneficial part of early child development. A child’s physical development as well as his or her personality and vitality can be enhanced by participating.

Niko has authored numerous books. She wrote Baby Swimming (1976) which received designation as a “Book of the Year” by the Japan Library Association. She authored Baby Swimming and Maternity Swimming (1987). She is also a respected author of history books in Japan – she has ten to her credit!

Niko has made presentations at scholastic meetings and conferences including the Japan Physical Pedagogical meeting, the Pediatrician Symposium for Pediatric Sports, and several times at the World Aquatic Babies & Children Network conferences.

As a youth, Niko was a competitive swimmer and held a Junior National freestyle record in Japan. She earned a degree in nursing which has help in working with handicapped children in the pool as well with those with conditions such as asthma and autism. She earned a Graduate degree from the School of Humanities and Social Sciences at the Nagoya City University.

Niko has always had an affectionate way of teaching. Virginia Hunt Newman, an ISHOF Pioneer Honoree in baby swimming, said, “Aquamics is a brilliant way to teach babies and young children with care and gentleness.”

Previous Award Recipients...

2011 Laurie Lawrence
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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