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 200
5 Virginia Hunt Newman International Award winner...

Steve Graves

For many years, Steve Graves has been helping to improve aquatic programs for young children on local, national and international levels.

Steve's leadership and promotion of Virginia Newman's non-traumatic style of teaching has been felt worldwide.  In 1998, Virginia selected Steve to be President of her World Aquatic Babies Congress (WABC), the professional organization for swim teachers working with infants and toddlers, which Virginia founded in 1993.  He put together world conferences on baby swimming in Toulouse, France (1999), Buenos Aires, Argentina (2001), and Honolulu, Hawaii (2003), which were attended by representatives from 34 countries.  He developed WABC's website using it to send electronic, around-the-world newsletters on the subject of infant-toddler aquatic instruction.  Hundreds of instructional articles were archived in several languages on the WABC website.

In 1988, Steve founded the National Swim School Association (NSSA), a trade association for swim school owners in the United States.  He served as the swim school's association President for the first five years, then as Executive Director through 2001.  During this time, annual conferences included presentations by the leading international authorities on designing aquatic programs for young children.

In 2000 Steve received the International Swimming Hall of Fame's Paragon Award for promoting Aquatic Safety by creating infant-toddler teacher certification and public awareness programs in drowning prevention for NSSA.  These programs greatly benefited NSSA's 1500 member swim teachers and the 160,000 students taught each year.

Since 1997 he has been part-time Executive Director of the Florida West Coast Chapter of the Florida Swimming Pool Association, an affiliate of the Association of Pool and spa Professionals (formerly NSPI).

When it comes to teaching young children to swim, Steve like Virginia, feels that the gentle, positive approach is best.

A Normal, Illinois native and a former college All-American freestyle swimmer for Coach Archie Harris, at Illinois State University also in Normal, Steve was a swim coach, teacher and aquatic program director from 1969 to 1988 in Illinois, Arizona and Florida.  Beyond his current association activities, Steve still finds time to teach swimming ten hours a week in St. Petersburg, Florida, with his wife Kathy at their American Swim School.  Says his university swim coach Archie Harris, "Steve did it on just plain hard work.  He is a go-getter."

Previous Award Recipients...

2004 Rob McKay  


Copyright ©   ISHOF | One Hall of Fame Drive, Ft. Lauderdale, FL 33316 | 954.462.6536 | All Rights Reserved |  Home |  Contact Us