How Coach Pete Carroll is Changing NFL Culture

Mindful's editor-in-chief on how NFL coach Pete Carroll is inspiring his players to be not only better athletes but also better people.

Sports. If you’re not into a sport yourself—either as a player or fan or both—you know people who are, including your children. Most boys and girls grow up playing one sport or another. For some, athletic prowess and achievement become all-encompassing passions. Athletics also becomes a place where values are formed and where players learn how it’s possible to go beyond the limits they had imagined for themselves—and that’s exhilarating and life-altering.

Playing sports requires moment-to-moment attention combined with loose, flexible awareness. It’s a place where what’s going on in our head has to synch with what’s happening on the ground. Therefore, it’s a place where lots of mind training takes place.

Professional athletes, without a doubt, are the most significant role models for many young men. Unfortunately, too many players fail to be truly meaningful role models for deep values that can carry you through life whether you succeed in sports or not.

Pete Carroll—head coach of the Seattle Seahawks, the defending NFL Super Bowl Champions and on a trajectory to return there—employs a coaching style and philosophy that emphasizes mind training and asks players to go deep inside to find out who they are and what’s possible. It’s a unique approach that contrasts with the frequently de-humanizing tactics employed by coaches everywhere, beating players down to make them more compliant and focussing only on the outer game. Those methods, rejected by Carroll, are not a prescription for developing well-rounded people who can translate what they’re doing on the field to what goes on in the rest of life.

To find out what Coach Carroll and his mind training coach, Michael Gervais, are up to, we asked Hugh Delehanty—co-author with Coach Phil Jackson of two best-selling books on sports and meditation—to go to Seattle and see firsthand how Carroll is inspiring his players to be not only better athletes but also better people.

I encourage you to read Hugh’s intriguing piece and share it with the sporting people in your life. To give you a taste of what Carroll is about, here are 3 Big Ideas that molded his philosophy:

The Peak Experience—Carroll wants to help his players find moments of intense clarity that give them access to parts of themselves usually hidden (his source: the psychologist Abraham Maslow)

The Inner Game—Carroll wants to help players quiet the mind by shifting their attention to what’s actually going on as opposed to what they’re imaging in their heads, and he believes the whole team can have a quiet mind. (his source: The Inner Game of Tennis by Timothy Gallwey)

The Long Body—Carroll wants players to access a sense of their body that extends beyond its immediate boundaries and perceives it as a part of an interconnected whole, which he believes can become the essence of a deeper kind of teamwork (his source: Native American tradition)

[Photograph by Rod Mar]