RENTON, WA - MAY 11: Head coach Pete Carroll of the Seattle Seahawks looks on during minicamp at the Virginia Mason Athletic Center on May 11, 2012 in Renton, Washington. (Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images)
I had a chance to attend the WinForever Event held by Coach Carroll at the VMAC again this year - I attended last year as well with Danny Kelly, and I thought it was improved over year one. It was shorter and clearer, which is a testament to everyone involved. (Though one thing I did "miss" from last year was a tour of the VMAC and a chance to eat at the VMAC cafeteria overlooking the lake!) I consider myself pretty familiar with Coach Carroll's philosophy, but here are a couple points that were reinforced and became ever the more lucid:
The SPARQ Rating: Nike and Coach Carroll promote the SPARQ Rating among athletes, starting in High School. The football SPARQ rating measures speed, explosiveness, power and agility, and serves as a nice encapsulated number - perhaps like an SAT score. It doesn't tell the whole story about a player, but is a nice number to have handy.
The football SPARQ rating is a combination of 4 elements: 40 yard dash, lateral agility drill, powerball toss (upper body measure), and vertical jump. I have to imagine that Brian Banks went through some of these drills when he had his celebrated work-out on Thursday June 7th, 2012. I think Danny frequently mentions that Pete Carroll and John Schneider do like measurable (like many coaches/GMs) - of course, they want their players to also have a competitive mindset, be good football players, and be good teammates - but physical measurables do matter.
Dr. Michael Gervais: Dr. Gervais does work with the Seahawks and Coach Carroll among other high performance athletes. When I offhand mentioned how much Dr. Gervais brought to this year's event to Yogi Roth, the Co-Founder and Emcee for Winforever, Yogi smiled and silently nodded in a fashion that said, "bro, you don't even know." (SoCal "bro") Here is a link to Dr. Gervais website.
Dr. Gervais promotes High Performance Psychology and Coach Carroll did graduate work study on Sports Psychology in the 1970's, during a time where the field was just emerging. Gervais talked about how they try to relax athletes before the game so they do not "over-tighten" or "try too hard" - to basically bring them back to an optimum performance level, a place of POISE. Poise is described as a state of "calm intensity". Before battle, they are seeking to bring down the overanxious mind and simultaneously warming up the cold body through various select warm up exercises.
How you do Small Things is how you do All Things: Yogi quoted Pete Carroll and it reminds me of a Bible verse my old Pastor used to quote - "faithful in little things," is how he termed it. I think Pete Carroll has another phrase "everything counts" or something like that. Pete is watching everything athletes do, how competitive they are in warm-up drills, focus in meetings, and how they interact with each other, the media, and the coaches. He is not trying to create boring "cookie-cutter" players - as he does promote individuality - but I am sure he has someone watching everything his athletes do, because it sends his staff valuable datapoints. He probably also watches their Twitter.
The Power of Your Vision for Others: Pete Carroll mentioned that you need to have a vision for each of your athletes, a clear vision of what each one of them could become. Obviously, the vision has to be grounded in some sort of reality. When they first got a hold of Earl Thomas, perhaps Carroll did bring up the names of Troy Polamalu and Ed Reed.
He couldn't say that to every safety he gets his hands on, but he knew Earl had the raw ability and potential, mentally, to emerge in that sort of fashion. I am sure Coach Carroll has those types of visions, different of course, for each player. Perhaps this vision involves framing the vision around a former or current player - or perhaps it is descriptive - "I see you emerging as one of the top slot WR in the NFL because of your smarts, hands, athleticism and dedication to study and white-hot desire for greatness."
I totally made that up, but perhaps he does say things like that. Carroll has a vision for each Seahawk, of what they could and can become.
The Power of Your Language: I am not talking about "not swearing," and I do think Pete swears on occasion, but not in a drunken sailor, old school football coach sort of way. Who knows, maybe he is Rex Ryan behind closed doors? Seriously though, the power of your language in terms of what you say and your expectations, positive or negative, about your team and players is paramount for Pete Carroll.
He is careful with his language, to not promote negativity and negative expectations, and he pushes that down through the ranks of his coaches. He feels that now, in Year Three, his coaches speak his philosophy - a trickle-down effect if you will. He also believes that this positive and shared language/culture does come through and comes out of the mouths of his players today. Carroll was really excited and proud about that.
Examples of his sort of language? - I assume they revolve around phrases like: competition, it's all about that ball, earn everything, everything counts, competition, protect the team, it's not about what they do- it's about what we do, competition, etc...
The second part of this power of language includes a person's "self-talk". Dr. Gervais said that confidence comes from "what you say to yourself." I believe they refer to this as "self-talk." Self-talk is big in any sort of counseling and psychology for all sorts of endeavour, including, obviously, sports. Dr. Gervais also mentioned that this self-talk has to have some sort of credibility. No amount of self-talk is going to allow me to gain the confidence to dunk a basketball tomorrow.
Now, if I was a foot taller, more athletic, and had trained for a few years. perhaps I would possess this confident self-talk to dunk a basketball. But I don't. I wish I was a little bit taller. I wish ...anyhow. The bottom line is, this confidence stemming from positive self-talk is generated because the player has prepared, practiced, trained, and been correctly identified and selected by the scouts/coaches - and should be able to go perform up to his capabilities.
When these steps have happened, positive self-talk take place, and confidence flows. Confidence is key in football, according to Winforever. Hard to disagree with that.
Lastly, Coach Carroll seemed confident the Seahawks were going to have a good year, from my chair.