SWIMkids USA’s founder Whitehead receives national honor

Posted 10/22/21

Lana Whitehead, the founder and pesident of SWIMkids USA in Mesa, has received the 2021 U.S. Swim School Association’s Lifetime Achievement Award.

The highly prestigious national award is …

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SWIMkids USA’s founder Whitehead receives national honor


Lana Whitehead, the founder and pesident of SWIMkids USA in Mesa, has received the 2021 U.S. Swim School Association’s Lifetime Achievement Award.

The highly prestigious national award is based on career longevity, philanthropic endeavors and lasting contributions to others. The Lifetime Achievement Award was created by the USSSA’s board of directors as a special way to honor individuals who have helped the learn-to-swim industry rise to new levels and lift other swim school owners up, according to a release.

This year is the golden anniversary of when Whitehead first started her family-owned business. For 50 years, she has demonstrated exceptional local and global leadership and dedication to the cause of making children safer around water, the release states.

“It is such a great honor to be part of the exclusive group of swim-industry professionals who have received this award in the past,” Whitehead said in the release. “I had always held it up as an unachievable thing and am surprised and humbled that I would be selected to receive such a prestigious honor.”

The award was given to Whitehead at the USSSA’s 2021 National Convention, which was held in Tampa, Florida, in October.

“Lana has been a leader and mentor to many, and she’s been on the forefront of researching brain development and the many benefits of swimming,” Tracy Koleber, president of the board for the U.S. Swim School Association, said in the release. “I met Lana 10 years ago and was blown away by her kindness and welcoming personality. I’ve had the privilege of getting to know her and spending time with her over the course of the past decade and am honored to call her a friend.”

Driven by her passion for drowning prevention, which has shaped her life ever since the tragic drownings of two of her friends’ children, 50 years ago Whitehead built a curriculum based on her belief that in addition to teaching children swim strokes and about the fun of swimming, that there were other things a swim school could do. These include offering infant and baby swim classes, because she observed by being in the water with her own infant son that babies love to learn. Baby classes were highly unusual at that time — in 1971.

Whitehead also became a pioneer when it came to swim schools purposefully teaching drowning prevention skills. She developed new techniques so children as young as age 1 can learn swim safety moves; for example, she began to teach students to roll to their back in a safety float in case they were in an emergency. Whitehead has made an impact throughout the world with teaching others her techniques and with stressing the importance of saving lives around water — serving as a leader who shared her knowledge so that other business owners around the country, the release states.

For 27 years she has worked as a member of the U.S. Swim School Association, receiving the Humanitarian Award in 2008 and the Hall of Fame award in 2012.

She has dedicated herself in many impactful ways to helping other swim school owners achieve their full potential. Her positive leadership style and the fact that she sets the bar high as far as the quality standard for swim instruction makes other teachers, including those who want to be the very best teachers want to learn from her. She has been a beacon of inspiration by promoting swim safety on national television and in major parenting publications as well as for winning numerous local and national awards for her exceptional leadership and for being an outstanding female entrepreneur, the release states.

Whitehead put her information in books she authored and published, and she created other tangible resources for others. She developed a course for the International Swim Instructors Association, speaks regularly to groups both locally and internationally and is a sought-after resource in the media — appearing on national shows such as Today and the CBS Early Show. She regularly has swim instructors from all over the world come to her facility to learn directly from her and get her guidance.

Whitehead co-created the Water Smart Babies program where pediatricians write “prescriptions” for water-safety measures. She created the booklet and the website for Water Smart Babies and that program is being used by doctors in eight states to connect the parents of patients to reputable swim schools in their area, the release states.

SWIMkids USA is at 2725 W Guadalupe Road in Mesa.


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