Learning to swim is an experience that challenges children physically and psychologically. There are several types of changes that occur when a student learns to swim. As you watch your student progress, their skills change both quantitatively and qualitatively. The difference between these changes is important to note.
A quantitative change has to do with a measurable amount. For instance, as your student progresses and builds up their endurance, they will gradually be able to swim a greater distance or swim more laps without tiring. With young children especially, a quantitative change in skill is closely related to the student’s level of physical development, their athleticism, and their level of physical fitness.
A qualitative change, on the other hand, is how well the student performs their skill. It involves not only a physical change, but a mental change as well. A qualitative change is a sign of a psychological understanding of how the skill is to be performed properly. A qualitative change causes the student to appear more proficient and smooth when they swim. It is a sign of a new level of development in their technique.
The question then becomes, “Which is more important, a quantitative change or a qualitative change?” The answer is, by far, qualitative changes are superior to quantitative changes. The reason, is that if a child can perform their skills with excellent technique while swimming a short distance, then they will gradually be able to swim further distances as well, while still maintaining proper form. Proper technique allows swimmers to swim further without exerting a large amount of energy and effort. Swimming is a naturally smooth, graceful sport, and the only way to develop that smoothness is to focus on qualitative changes first and foremost.