Paragon Awards                           Presented By

The Annual Paragon Awards, sponsored by Pentair Aquatic Systems,  are presented for outstanding contributions to: Competitive Swimming, Water Polo, Competitive Diving, Aquatic Safety, Synchronized Swimming and Recreational Swimming.

2007 Paragon Award / Recreational Swimming

Mary Essert (USA) / Instructor of Aquatic Fitness & Physical Therapy

Since 1949, Mary B. Essert, B.A., ATRIC, has been involved in the aquatic industry, teaching swimming, safety, water fitness and therapeutic intervention. Her personal experience with breast cancer and fibromyalgia has prompted her to share her expertise in aquatic exercise and rehab with other persons. Her water fitness and therapeutic intervention techniques, workshops, books, and videos are internationally recognized. She serves as an instructor trainer for the Arthritis Foundation, Red Cross WSI, and holds many instructor certifications including ABA, USWFA, Medical Health & Fitness, Cancer Wel-Fit and the MS Society.

Following graduation from Hendrix College in 1953, Mary began to place a strong focus on inclusion for all persons to aquatic programs. It became a consistent theme in her life. Upon return to the work place (YMCA, Duchess County, MD) in 1975, she pioneered aquatic programs for special populations and seniors and for over 12 years, served the National YMCA, Red Cross, Arthritis Foundation and the local community with aquatic program innovation and training.


In 1982, she returned to college at DuPage (IL) earning a major in Human Services and Aging. Her newly developed fitness corporation chose the "Move it or Lose it" logo and through worldwide networking has made that term popular.


After a 1994 move to the San Francisco Bay Area, she developed employment with her two physical therapy firms as well as with the Albany Public School adult education program. Work at the Berkley warm pool complimented these efforts and permitted her to continue to work in pediatrics and practice new skills in the Eastern warm water techniques of Watsu and Jahara.


Upon moving back to her hometown Conway, Arkansas, in 2001 with her husband to care for her elderly mother (102 years of age), she became employed by Conway Regional Health Systems at their Fitness Center as an aquatic fitness instructor, aquatic personal trainer, and facilitator of a Fibromyalgia support group. She also works two mornings per week at Conway Therapy Services.


Mary places great emphasis on working with persons with disabilities. She has produced numerous publications, videos and manuals on water walking, water fitness, water exercise and more. She has received numerous awards including the Aquatic Leadership Award of the AAHPERD, C. Carson Conrad Award of the United States Water Fitness Association and the John K. Williams, Jr. International Adapted Aquatics Award.


Building networks between swimming, water safety, adapted aquatics, water fitness and therapy professionals has been her major contribution.

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