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by Author Unknown

February 21, 2003

John Spannuth was there at the beginning

It was announced in Austin, Texas that the 1988 Ransom J. Arthur award was won by John R. Spannuth. John was the person who provided the leadership to organize the Masters swimming program. He pulled everything together to get the program approved by the National AAU. He organized and directed the first ever National Masters Swimming meet held in Amarillo, Texas in May of 1970. John has been president of the American Swimming Coaches Association, National Aquatics Administration for the AAU, executive director of the U.S. Swimming Foundation, and executive director of the Int. Special Olympics for the Kennedy Foundation. Currently, John is the Sr. Aquatics Director for the YMCA in Norman, Okla.

Swim-Master June 1988, Vol XVII-No5

The 1988 honoree as recipient of the Dr. Ransom Arthur award is John R. Spannuth. John has long been active in swimming, first through the AAU and as coach at Phillips Petroleum in Bartlesville, Okla. Later, he served as president of the American Swimming Coaches Association. John served in many capacities for the AAU, as a member of the Age Group Rules Committee, Women's Olympic Swimming Committee, Joint International Swimming Committee, and also as AAU Aquatics Administrator. John provided leadership to organize the program for Masters swimming and was a prime mover in getting the program approved by the National AAU. He organized and directed the first-ever National Masters Swimming Championship in 1970 and 1971 in Amarillo, Texas and the first-ever YMCA Masters Swimming Championship, held in Reading, Pa.

(Note—My [June Krauser]* thanks to Gail Dummer for many of the above facts—found in the USMS Newsletter. You might have received the Newsletter before Swim-Master.)

Swim-Master Nov-Dec 1988, Vol. XVII-No9

*(Inserted by the History and Archives Committee April 16 2010)

JohnSpannuth, who was convinced that Ransom Arthur 's theory that older swimmers needed a program and incentive was correct, was a key player in getting the Masters program off the ground. As president of the Coaches Association and having his own regulation swimming pool and club, he was able to sponsor and be meet director for the first two National Masters Swimming Championships which were held in Amarillo, Texas. Since John was in contact with all of the coaches in the U.S., he sent them entries for the first Masters meet. He also was in contact with ex national and Olympic swimmers. John had the foresight that by bringing them into the program others would be encouraged to be part of the program. He also knew from past experience that the program needed celebrities to get the support the program needed from the news media and other publications plus television.

John felt by giving eighth place awards and high point individual and team awards, older citizens would be enticed to enter and sold or hooked to continue. Even though the main aim of the program was to help keep older athletes and novice swimmers physically fit, he knew he first had to entice them into the program.

He and Ransom suggested 25 years of age as the minimum with 10-year age divisions even though most Masters sports start at 40 and over.

John also felt that the social part of the program was important. He held the first social at the home of one of his members with all members contributing the refreshments. The Second National Championship was too large to hold in a home and was held at a country club.

After the second National Masters meet in Amarillo the program was indeed off the ground. USMS was made a sub-committee of AAU swimming at the 1971 AAU Convention in Lake Placid, New York. As aquatic administrator under President Jack Kelly, John felt the program would benefit through AAU affiliation. As a result, the third San Mateo Short Course meet drew twice as many competitors as the second Amarillo Meet. The first Long Course National Masters meet was held in Bloomington, Ind., with Doc James E. Councilman as meet director. Doc Councilman had joined Masters swimming in 1971.

John persuaded Buster Crabbe to swim in the meet and the sports editors and television gave it full coverage.

John never stopped. Next was the establishment of the Ransom Arthur Award. The committee with Judge Robert Beach (who also joined the program in 1971) organized the requirements for the award. Judge Beach has been the chairman through the years.


John has a list of "favorite sayings" (added 2/21/03).

  1. Live life to its fullest, each and every day.
  2. We make a choice to be up or down.
  3. Focus on what is right not wrong.
  4. Everything in life is based on time.
  5. Blaze new trails.
  6. Eliminate energy suckers from your life.
  7. Our lives are like oceans, we need to ride the waves.
  8. There are no accidents.
  9. No one on this planet is going to ruin this day for me.
  10. Keep your priorities straight.
  11. Don't worry about things you have no control over.