by Erica Quam, President & Founder of The Coaching Experience
I have been watching the Seattle Seahawks and pulling for them since 2002 when I officially became a resident of the state of Washington. There have been some hard seasons to watch the Hawks…but since Pete Carroll took over a few years ago, they’ve really been experiencing a whole new level of success.
Here are five things Coach Pete Carroll is doing differently:
Win with compassion, not anger
The main idea is that happy players are better players. Everyone in the organization – from coaches & players to personnel – are expected to follow the mantra from Coach Carroll in terms of positive thought, word, and action.
“I truly believe in positive synergy, that your positive mindset gives you a more hopeful outlook, and belief that you can do something great means you will do something great. I believed that before I got here, and the crazy thing is, Coach Carroll and our football team believe it too.”
-Russell Wilson, Seahawks Starting QB
As a coach, it is important to show players that you care about them as people first. Oftentimes they will be even more motivated to challenge themselves to work towards the overall vision of the coach and the team. Maybe they will also be more comfortable communicating with you when challenges arise for them. When you have a better feel for the struggles that come up, you can support your team at a much greater level.
Thank the 12th MAN
The Seattle fans had such an impact on the success of the team in the 1980’s that Seahawks President Mike McCormack retired the number 12 jersey on December 15, 1984 forever. A tribute to the best fans in the NFL. Just before kickoff at every home game, a giant flag is raised in honor of the 12th MAN. From former Seahawks greats, to local celebrities raising the 12th MAN Flag has become a symbol of Seahawks supporters all over the Northwest.
I’ve watched the Seahawks coaches and players go over to the sidelines before and after games to connect with their fans. They make time to do this every game. Coaches can teach their athletes to show a sense of gratitude for the people that support them – no matter what level they are at. Find a simple ritual to thank friends, families, and fans who show up to support the team helps get them out of the “team bubble” create more of a community. It helps show them that – in both victory and defeat – they have people that care to watch and support them. Whether its giving a shout out as a team, to a high five session after the competition – gratitude changes attitudes and even strengthens the immune system!
Enjoy One Another
The Seahawks talk more about enjoying one another and spending time playing with and for one another on game-day. If they can do this, they believe their results will speak for themselves. Instead of talking about how important this game is and what it means to their overall season, the focus is more on the process…enjoying the opportunity to play in the moment.
Everyone on the team does not have to be best friends or spend every waking moment with one another off the field. I do believe it is important to foster an environment of mutual respect and FUN! We’re talking about SPORTS here…RECREATION! So many times coaches and teams take themselves WAY too seriously. Life is too short! Enjoy it! If you don’t love what you are doing or you have players who don’t love what they are doing, they can bring everyone else down. Take time to find out why your athletes are there. Share that as a team. This can be SUCH a powerful conversation that brings the team together at a deep level.
Yoga & Meditation
Seahawk Sunday mornings start with meditation with high-performance sports psychologist, Mike Gervais. It’s not required, yet about 20 players show up to breathe in, breathe out, and open their minds. The entire roster also participates in yoga class. Players enjoyed it so much last year as an optional activity that the staff decided to incorporate it as part of player workouts this year.
As a yoga teacher, I believe in the power of yoga. I really believe that is performance enhancing! Over my 15 year career as a coach, I found players to be getting more stressed, and much less connected to one another (and more connected to their iPhones) than ever before.
Yoga and meditation can help them connect with themselves. If they can do that, then they can start to connect with one another.
Through physical yoga poses (asanas), one can focus on the alignment, action, & the breath. Yoga can help to quiet the mind and bring it into the present moment. Many times stress and fear comes up when one focuses on the past or on the future. The more time you can spend in the here and now, the less the focus will be on stress and fear.
Both yoga and meditation utilize a powerful tool – the breath. There is such power in the breath. The respiratory system is both an involuntary and voluntary. Every person has access to the breath and can learn to utilize it to lower heart-rate, reduce tension, and quiet the mind (just to name a few small benefits). Even taking as little as 5 to 15 minutes several times a week to do some breath awareness could make a HUGE impact on your athletes.
“I wanted to find out if we went to the NFL and really took care of guys, really cared about each and every individual, what would happen?”
– Pete Carroll
The Seahawks have a whole team of staff dedicated to player wellness. They monitor everything from blood panels – to look for amino acid deficiencies (looking for why players get into a funk) – to the hours of sleep players get. Team leaders are also encouraged to reach out to players who are struggling – and may not feel comfortable talking to staff – to get them more connected to the team. They also have a team chef that feeds the players fruits and vegetables from local organic farms – stressing the importance of good nutrition.
Let’s face it. The bigger picture of participating in sports is for overall health and wellbeing.
What are some ways as a coach that you can support the overall wellness of the players on your team? What could happen if you do?