clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

More on Pete Carroll's innovations at VMAC

If you buy something from an SB Nation link, Vox Media may earn a commission. See our ethics statement.

Harry How

You've probably seen Alyssa Roenigk's ESPN column on the Seahawks innovative ways of running an NFL franchise. If you haven't yet. Please go read it. I'll wait.

Seattle Seahawks use unusual techniques in practice - ESPN The Magazine - ESPN


Ok. So - a few things about this article certainly stood out to me. First off:

...In a trial program entering its second year, a group of 15 to 20 players is undergoing Neurotopia brain-performance testing and has worked with Gervais to create status profiles -- updated every week on an iPad app -- of what's going on in their lives, how much sleep they're getting, their goals and how they're dealing with stressors.

Neurotopia brain-performance tracking. That's normal?

Even as we re-examine the mental health of players in this kinder, gentler era of the sport, this is a bizarro football world. It certainly helps that Carroll has found a kindred spirit and advocate in second-year star QB Russell Wilson, who schedules individual weekly sessions with Gervais. "We do imagery work and talk about having that innovative mindset of being special," Wilson says. "We talk about being in the moment and increasing chaos throughout practice, so when I go into the game, everything is relaxed."

Pete Carroll is big on the 'inner game' of football - building confidence, playing in the absence of fear - etc, so forth. So it's no surprise that he has an in-house expert on the psychology of sports.

More on Gervais:

Michael Gervais, Ph.D.: Becoming World-Class: Olympians And You
We silently reflect on what it must be like to "win" -- to be tested -- to be challenged, and to be left not wanting. We wonder what it would be like to experience the fullness of striving, and striving honestly.

The Sports Shrink: Michael Gervais, Psychologist to the Stars | Fitness - Health and Fitness Advice |
When elite athletes like three-time Olympic volleyball gold medalist Kerri Walsh and daredevil spaceman Felix Baumgartner are in a slump, they go see Los Angeles sports psychologist Michael Gervais. Sometimes boosting your performance requires sitting on a couch.

Gervais' methods are not the only cutting edge creativity they employ.

Per Roenigk:

HERE'S THE THING about the Seattle experiment: It's only the beginning of what the Seahawks intend to be a total revamp of the way a football franchise approaches the physical and mental well-being of everyone in the organization. Team chef Mac McNabb feeds the players fruits and vegetables from local organic farms. He takes any leftovers to a nearby family-run farm to feed free-range chickens, which are raised specifically for the Seahawks cafeteria. Ramsden and Gervais spend their spare time attending conferences, meeting with nutritionists and sleep experts, and, judging by the mound of boxes in Ramsden's office, buying any new tech gadget that could be the next breakthrough in maximizing athletic performance. At the start of last season, Ramsden gathered data on most of the Seahawks, including blood and vision analyses and sleep and conditioning profiles. At practice, player movement is tracked via GPS so the team can monitor workloads. Ultimately, Ramsden would like to have players and coaches wear wristbands to track sleep habits and, when necessary, adjust practice schedules to maximize rest.

Personally, I love this kind of stuff. It may not be for everyone, but I guess I'm kind of a sucker for outside-the-box thinking and attacking the 'competition' thing from every imaginable angle.

It's the incremental factors normally on the periphery that Carroll seems to contract out to specialists that are on his wavelength - a nutritionist/chef, a psychology expert whose goal is to improve performance through developing mental toughness and confidence, a health expert hell bent on peak performance of athletes' bodies through nutrition and sleep. I wish my company did this stuff. That would be awesome.

Innovation, innovation, innovation. Maybe some of it is less-than-helpful. Maybe some of it is what has helped Seattle become a big-time contender in the NFL and prior to that, helped make USC a perennial power. Who knows. I find it pretty interesting though.

Anyway. Here's my point. The author of the piece, Alyssa Roenigk, joined ESPN's Kamenetzky Brothers for a podcast today and it's definitely worth a listen. More nuggets and insight into the program Carroll has implemented at VMAC.

More audio at