A recent testament of resiliency was witnessed by millions as the Seattle Seahawks defeated the Green Bay Packers to reclaim their NFC Championship title and a spot at the Superbowl XLIX. On Sunday, January 18, 2015, the Seahawks were facing a twelve point deficit with less than four minutes to go. Needless to say, the odds did not look favorable. With just minutes left in the game, Seahawks fans left the stadium with saddened and disappointed faces. But to Coach Carroll and his team, the game was far from over. Anything was possible.
To accomplish what happened next took a great deal of belief in themselves and each other, but the Seahawks took the game into overtime where victory was accomplished. Even when defeat seemed inevitable the Seahawks did not stop pressing forward.
So what gave the Seahawks the willpower to not give up? As one of the only teams in the NFL with Mindfulness training, the answer is simple: resiliency and an adaptive mindset.
In December of 2014, Seattle Seahawks coach Pete Carroll was featured on the cover of Mindful Magazine with the headline “The Game Changer – How Seattle Seahawks Coach Pete Carroll is Reshaping NFL Culture.”
According to the Mindful article, “When Carroll took over the Seahawks in 2010 after leading the University of Southern California (USC) Trojans to two national championships, the pundits were skeptical. Sure, they said, his positive rah-rah approach might work with fresh-faced college boys, but not in the serious, hard-ass world of the NFL.”
In 2014, when the Seahawks claimed their first Superbowl win in history, many were wondering what was the secret behind the Seahawk’s newfound success. There was clearly something special about the strategies that Pete Carroll had up his sleeve, but what were these strategies?
The first approach was to further the program from solely focusing on the game, but instead, to focus on the individual. He fosters players’ individual growth by nurturing them and asking them to look inside themselves and discover the confidence to be the best that they can be. Author of Mindul article, Hugh Delehanty writes, “Rather than force players to conform to a rigid, alienating system, Carroll and his coaches focus their attention on cultivating the special qualities of each player, then helping to incorporate them into the team.”
Another tactic utilized in Carroll’s coaching strategy was to make the idea of “always competing” the central theme of his philosophy. But to Carroll, competition doesn’t translate to beating others, competing means to be the best you can be. It’s about utilizing willpower to push yourself as far as you can go. Carroll says, “…It’s no disrespect for our opponents. But I don’t want to place any value on our opponents from one week to the next. I want everything to be directed at us being at our best no matter who we’re playing.”
Carroll has a strong belief that anyone, not just the few high draft picks, can realize and gauge their peak potentials, but, according to the Mindful article, he continued to experiment with ways to train players to unlock their hidden powers. “The possibility to reach your highest level is available to everyone if you work hard and go about it the right way,” says Carroll, “I think there are so many things that can distract us from getting to that clarity. But we all have the power to figure that out if guided properly and coached well enough. Everybody needs to be coached, I know I do.” This led to what may have been Carroll’s ultimate factor in his team’s success; he hired a mindfulness coach.
Michael Gervais is a sports psychologist, having trained numerous pro athletes and Olympians including triple gold medalists Kerri Walsh-Jennings and Misty May-Treanor. “Gervais uses a sophisticated blend of mindfulness and cognitive behavioral training to cultivate what he describes as ‘full presence and conviction in the moment.’” He has taught the Seahawks players meditation and tactical breathing techniques as well as a broad range of visualization techniques to enhance the players’ confidence. According to Gervais “Confidence is the cornerstone of great performance and it comes from just one place: what we say to ourselves.”
According to TRACOM’s Bob Bachman, Director of Client Solutions, Western Region and for full disclosure a resident of the Seattle area and Seahawks fan, “There was much discussion about how Green Bay lost that game. Truthfully, it was theirs to be had. What hasn’t been discussed was Seattle’s ability to hold Green Bay’s offense to only one touchdown the whole game. The other scores were five field goals. The score was 16-0 at halftime, but could have been way out of hand had Seattle focused on the deficit, instead of the fact that there was much more football to be played. By focusing on the goal of winning, instead of the obstacles in their way, they put themselves in a position for the chance to win.”
Disclaimer: As a Denver based company many of our employees’ loyalties are still with the Broncos, but at the end of the day, there’s no denying the powerful impacts of mindfulness training.