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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
6 Virginia Hunt Newman International Award winner...

Terje Stakset

Terje Stakset

Terje Stakset was selected for as the 2006 recipient for his commitment and being a wonderful example of Virginia Newman's gentle methods of teaching babies to swim, giving voice to those not yet able to speak for themselves.

Terje represents Virginia's philosophy not only in the pool as an instructor, but also in his conference presentations and uniquely in the theater as the producer of his one-man stage show of the evolution of gentle baby swimming. This ingenious production pays tribute to Virginia, and follows her vision of using play and kindness, not force and tears to teach babies to swim. His father was a swimming teacher for 25 years.

Terje traveled from his home in Norway to receive the award in Fort Lauderdale, Florida at the Swimming Hall of Fame's annual ceremonies, on May 12, 2006. Mr. Stakset is the third individual to receive this prestigious international recognition.

Terje, a graduate of the Business Academy of Oslo, is currently manager of the Norwegian Lifesaving Federation in Oslo and Baerum. He has been an instructor in swimming and life saving for 27 years and a teacher of baby swimming for 15 years. Moreover, he trains instructors in swimming, baby swimming, lifesaving, CPR and first aid and for 27 years he was the vice-president of the Norwegian Lifesaving Association.

In 1990 and 1991, his team won the Norwegian National Lifesaving Championship for male teams. In 1992, he represented Norway in the World Championships in Sweden.

Terje's baby swim school is part of the Oslo and Baerum District of the Norwegian Lifesaving Association. He has been an advocate of Virginia Hunt Newman's gentle approach to teaching babies to swim. He has been an international speaker at Newman's World Aquatic Baby Congress conferences in France and Hawaii as well as a international conference in Helsinki, Finland. In October 2004 he was Director for the Nordic Conference on Baby Swimming in Oslo. In 2002 he produced a baby swim video "The Truthful Face of Baby Swim". In April 2006 he completed a second DVD titled: "How to Teach Young Children to Swim."

Terje is a wonderful example of Virginia's gentle methods of teaching babies to swim, giving voice to those not yet able to speak for themselves. Terje's leadership and commitment represent Virginia's philosophy not only in the pool as an instructor, but also in his conference presentations. Through his use of poetry and unique theatrical acting when producing his one-man stage show, he "shows off" the evolution of the gentle baby swimming approach. This ingenious production - entitled "Baby Swim Fro the Very Start and Into the Future" pays tribute to Virginia, and follows her vision of using play and kindness, not force and tears to teach babies to swim.

Using a poetic verse to describe his feelings for Virginia's method of teaching Terje writes:
Virginia Hunt Newman was a Pioneer,
And She Made It Quite Clear,
Non-Forceful is the Only Way,
And in That Direction it Has to Stay,
Be Gentle from the Very Start,
If You're Going to be Smart.

Terje is 47 years old, married and has two sons.

Previous Award Recipients...

2005 Steve Graves 2004 Rob McKay

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