Follow The Recipe

When I was in my twenties, I ran a catering company. It was kinda funny, because I had no idea how to cook at all. It was somewhat successful and it went a long way to supported my coaching addiction. I partnered with a successful off site caterer located in the city and offered their menu to people living in the suburbs. I bought an old refrigerated van and would pick up the food on Friday and make my delivers on Saturdays & Sundays.


The older man who ran the company in the city liked my ability to hussle. Eventually, he told me that many of these items where easy to make on site and that I should consider renting a kitchen locally and cook them myself so I would have a higher profit margin. The thought of even entering a kitchen was scary, let alone preparing food for others. He said, “Rich, it’s easy...just follow the recipe exactly and you will be fine”.


Follow the recipe. It was good advice.


We did go on to get a kitchen and made some of the less complicated food locally. It turned out that I could follow the recipe and make food that people enjoyed. I never had a true culinary understanding of the art of cooking, but I smart enough to know my weaknesses and simply followed his instructions exactly. I went so far as taking my very expensive (and huge) video camera I used at the pool to his place of business and taped him doing each food item. I wish I still had those tapes because the food was sooo good!


OK Rich, thanks for the personal history lesson, but what does this have to do with swimming? Well, a lot actually.


I like to feed my mind by reading, listening and watching books, podcasts and videos by successful people. One of these people is named Seth Godin. Seth is a marketing and leadership Guru. I subscribe to his blog and get some nice nuggets of knowledge sent to my inbox each day. Seth is not as wordy as I am, so they are quick reads.


The other day, I received one that I thought I should share with the Swamily. I have renamed it, “Follow The Recipe”. You can read it below:


“I followed the recipe exactly, and it failed.”


That’s how many reviews of online recipes begin. Then the poster explains that he replaced the sour cream with yogurt (it’s what he had in the fridge), that he replaced the wheat flour with rice flour (it’s gluten-free) and he used the toaster oven instead of a real oven…


Once you are deep into a project, it’s yours. It’s underway. You have heart and soul and pride invested in it.

In the face of helpful advice, it’s easy to say, “sure, that’s what I’m already doing,” and then torture your description of the current project to make it sort of, almost, sound like you’re following the suggested new approach. But you’re not. You’re merely wasting time and effort pretending you’re embracing this new way of doing something.


What if, just for a week or even a day, you acted as if? What if you re-did your plan, or your perceptions of the world or your approach in a totally new way, the way that respects and embraces the thing you just learned. What if you followed the recipe by following the recipe, simply to learn the technique…


After that, after you’ve seen what it can do, then go ahead and see what happens when you re-adopt the cruft that had you looking for a new recipe in the first place.


In the age of unlimited access to recipes, the hard part about getting good advice isn’t getting it. It’s following it. And then you might be able to turn the recipe into insight.

  • Seth Godin

We have recipes here at Blue Wave. They are called Seasonal Plans. We have one for every stage of the developmental process. They are progressive in nature and help vessel a person from a novice to wherever their ambitions, talents and drive will take them. They are crafted from decades of experience, sound science and never-ending research.

Fortunately, our recipes work...when followed.

For newer swimmers, it’s easy to follow the recipe. Swimming is unique in that the skills are performed in water; an environment that we are not immersed in 24/7. Getting acclimated to that environment requires time. Gaining the skill set to move through the water efficiently is of paramount importance. As the swimmer improves, we morph from a focus on teaching to one on training. Many times it is at this stage where swimmers and parents start tweaking the recipe. Here’s what I mean.

Higher level swimmers need to improve in a variety of areas to reach their potential. In addition to in water training, there is dryland, weights, flexibility, core work, mental toughness, nutrition, time management, sleep and more. Our seasonal plans take all of this into consideration. Seasons build on top of each other. Following the recipe means the athlete should have consistent progress throughout their career. Sure, there will be some ups and downs, but as a long term strategy, following the proven recipe works.

As Seth’s blog post points out, sometimes people use yogurt instead of sour cream...and then wonder why the recipe was a fail. There is an overused saying in sports, but it is overused because it is accurate. “Trust The Process”. In other words, follow the recipe.

I have been involved in this sport since we put a man on the moon. I have seen it from just about every angle. Swimmer, summer team coach, high school coach, age group coach, high performance coach, collegiate coach, masters coach and as a swim parent. I know that many times people do not follow the recipe because they want to do more or work harder. While I love the ambition and drive, I want to caution our members that adding more sugar to the recipe might not get you a sweeter result.

It’s the beginning of a new season. Let’s make it a teamwide mindset to follow the recipe in terms of our preparations. If we do, great things will happen.

It’s lunch time. Whatever I decide to make, I think you now know that I will surely follow the recipe.

Thanks for being a part of the swamily. Know we do everything we can day in and day out for the betterment of the swimmers and the program as a whole.

See you at the pool - Rich