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Seahawks coach Pete Carroll hugs quarterback Russell Wilson, who in turn embraces Carroll’s innovative system.
Monday, September 16, 2013
If you watched the Seattle Seahawks dismantle the San Francisco 49ers on Sunday night, you might be wondering how it happened. The matchup between the defending NFC champions and one of the league’s true up-and-comers seemed fairly even, as the Vegas line (Seattle by 3) confirmed.
Is Richmond product Russell Wilson really that good?
Is Marshawn Lynch really that relentless?
Does that Seattle crowd really produce one of the most underrated home-field advantages in sports?
Yes, yes and yes. But there might be more to it than that.
Last month, Alyssa Roenigk wrote a fascinating article for ESPN The Magazine’s NFL preview edition detailing all the ways the Seahawks behave differently than their peers. We’re talking cognitive psychology, and lots of it. Creative visualization. Positive thinking. Daily meditation.
It was exactly the kind of article that separates ESPN The Magazine from ESPN The Channel (often mindless hype and shouting analysts), ESPN Radio (manufactured debate to appeal to the lowest common denominator) and ESPN The Masses-Baiting Juggernaut (all Tim Tebow and Tom Brady, all the time).
The article dared to be different. It asked the reader to think.
And it’s an article that should be read by every football coach, general manager, athletic director and player – from the NFL all the way down to high school.
Treat people right. Take care of your employees. Nurture them, empower them, unlock their individual gifts.
That’s the philosophy championed by Seahawks coach Pete Carroll. And while those things might seem like common sense, many football teams don’t behave that way. As the article put it, Carroll’s dream upon leaving USC to return to the NFL “was to fundamentally change the way players are coached.”
At the heart of the Seattle experiment is the theory that happy players make for better players. Screaming and swearing are discouraged. Sleep is prioritized. Players are urged to meet with support personnel if they have any problems, on or off the field. Meditation is viewed as just as important as lifting weights.
To which the old guard might respond: Umm … Anything in there about hitting somebody?
Anyone who’s been through high school two-a-days knows The Seattle Way runs counter to much of what young football players are taught. Don’t like screaming and cussing? Bleep you and your candy bleep. Got a problem off the field? Suck it up. Not getting enough sleep? Maybe some extra up-downs will awaken you.
Wilson is the perfect front man for Carroll’s team and movement. Bright, self-aware and determined, the former N.C. State and Wisconsin star is positivity personified. He didn’t need any convincing to buy in. He would have adopted many of these New Age techniques on his own; now he has teammates and coaches to join him.
Plus, as we all know, he’s a stellar reminder that measurables aren’t everything. After falling to the third round thanks in large part to his height (5-foot-10), Wilson led the 2012 Seahawks to an 11-5 record while becoming the first rookie quarterback in NFL history to post a triple-digit passer rating.
Not everything the Seahawks do is practical for everyone. High schools can’t be expected to ship in fruits and vegetables only produced at local organic farms, for example. And quotes like the one Seahawks receiver Doug Baldwin gave Roenigk — “Our prefrontal cortex doesn’t reach maturity until age 25” — don’t have to pass the lips of an ACC linebacker for that ACC linebacker to succeed.
But the progress of the Seahawks is worth watching and, for the more daring, borrowing from immediately. Their approach might not revolutionize the game, but if they win the Super Bowl this year, watch out for yoga mats on your next trip to the Steel City.
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