George Corsan, Sr. (CAN)
Honor Contributor (1971)
FOR THE RECORD: Developed YMCA swimming programs; Head swimming instructor of the International and National YMCA’s; originated mass method of swimming instruction; directed swimming instruction at the WWI training camps in California, USA; developed the Boy Scout Masters course for aquatic instruction; received Royal Life Saving Society Award of Merit: 1899; Author: At Home In The Water, 1900; Author: The Diving And Swimming Book, 1924.
George H. Corsan, Sr. was a Canadian who did more than any single person to popularize swimming in North America during the first 25 years of this century.
He was the head swimming instructor of the International and the National YMCAs. He originated the massed method of swimming instruction, rhythmic breathing and fear elimination drill. He was the first swimming teacher to teach beginners the crawl stroke rather than the traditional and difficult to coordinate breaststroke. In this work he invented water wings to replace the cumbersome rings on a cable used in the beginning breaststroke of that time. Without the cable he could handle more students at a time. He was the first to teach whole regiments and whole schools to swim in mass classes and in a very short time.
For this work, Corsan received the Royal Life Saving Society Award of Merit in 1899. following publication of his first book At Home in the Water. In 1900, his magazine articles, lectures to service clubs, teacher clinics, three more books and the success of his classes in nearly every U.S. city won his system of swimming instruction universal acceptance for the next 25 years.
Corsan was the first swimming teacher to be recognized as a “Professor” by several North American colleges. He directed swimming instruction at the WWI training camps in California, developed the Boy Scout Masters course for aquatic instruction and listed among his disciples Hall of Famers Matt Mann, Bob Kiphuth and Commodore Longfellow.
With the early YMCA programs, he not only was the head instructor, but the principal designer of the swimming pools.
Corsan’s motto was “Paddle your own canoe, but first learn to swim.” His final work, The Diving and Swimming Book published in 1924, holds up as a worthwhile supplemental textbook even today.