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Mindful : December 2014
Gervais, he adopted a keen interest in mindfulness practice, and it has changed his way of looking at the world. “It’s an inner thing,” he says. “ When you’re quiet and don’t say anything, you start to see the unseen. That’s why people need to be observant and listen. When I turned my ears to listening, I improved, personally and in everything.” Asked whether he meditates, Thomas replies, “You’ve got to. That ’s how you get into the flow. That’s why I do my little dance, my back pedal, because I’m flowing with the offense. However, you’re going to get at me, I’m going to adapt. I’m going to flow with you like water.” “Seeing the unseen” is how Gervais describes the ability to recognize the truth of what is. “The truth is often something that you can’t see, but it’s something you ca n experience and feel,” he says. “To get the players to experi- ence that, we work on being present, grounded, and connected—and some- times training our minds to envision what we’d like to experience. That ’s the essence of the moment.” This kind of intimate coaching is not uncommon with the Seahawks. “ We’re a relationship-based system,” says Carroll. “It’s based on our ability to interact with our players, to understand their needs, and, through those relationships, figure out how best to help them. That ’s why we get such a great return from our guys because, after a while, they know how consistent we are a nd that we’re going to be there for them.” Offensive line coach Tom Cable, whose last gig was as head coach of the Oakland Raiders, was pleasantly sur- prised when he star ted using Carroll’s approach. “There’s a level of develop- ment that’s always around us, develop- ing the players, developing the pro- gra m, developing everything that can make the team better,” he says. “And there’s a real vibe of what it means to be positive a nd ma ke each day the most important thing there is. And not worry about yesterday or look to tomorrow. Just stay right here right now. When you grab onto that philosophy, you get so much done.” It also makes it easier to deal with emotionally sensitive issues. Ca rroll’s strategy for handling difficult discus- sions, he says, is “getting to the truth always. In a calm measured way so that we can talk things through. The depth we can get to is based on the trust that we’ve developed.” Case in point: the Ray Rice situation. Carroll was shaken by the news that the Baltimore Ravens running back had been caught on video beating his then fiancee in an elevator and told ESPN’s Terry Blount that the incident had “changed him forever” and would impact how he evaluated players in the future. “I talked to the team about the serious nature of it,” he told Blount. “ It’s an extremely serious situation. We made them aware that we will help them in any way if they have concerns about it. We will try to elevate their awareness. I think it’s another example of an enor- mous situation that people learn from and grow so much from.” One morning in 2003 Carroll was driving to work at USC and heard on the radio of a gang-related murder of a young man, the 11th of its kind that week in Los A ngeles. Carroll was dis- turbed by the news because many of the kids being killed were similar in age to the players on the Trojans team. So he reached out to his friend Lou Tice, the head of The Pacific Institute, an educa- tional foundation, to figure out a way to address the problem. Soon afterward, Carroll and Tice convened a meeting of several leaders who were grappling with gang violence, including Mayor Villaraigosa, and were surprised to discover that they didn’t have a clearly articulated philosophy. So he described what he was doing at USC, thinking that the basic principle—build- ing success by getting each team member to maximize his or her potential—could work with all kinds of organizations, not just football tea ms. What emerged was a non-profit organization called A Better L.A . that works with a wide range of community groups to restore peace, save lives, and give young people in gang-sca rred areas the resources for self-empowerment. The results have been impressive. According to the Los Angeles Times, a number of key gang-crime statistics have declined sig- nificantly since A Better LA was founded. Three years ago, Carroll launched a similar program in his new city, fittingly dubbed A Better Seattle. Ca rroll is reluctant to talk about his involvement in these progra ms. For him, Taking the Lead: Reducing Head Injuries The NFL has been harshly criticized for not doing enough to eliminate head injuries. Pete Carroll has taken a strong stance, committing his team to a way of playing that avoids these injuries— as evidenced by this open letter to fans. Hey Football Fans: It has been a full off-season for us, and within the last month, we were very pleased to release a 20-minute film teaching our unique tackling system, one that emphasizes “ taking the head out of the play.” Our defense has become known for toughness and physicality, and we’re proud to share the ways we’ve done it in a safe manner. We are passionate about maintaining the physical par t of football while emphasizing safer techniques that feature shoulder tackling. We want to play the game as tough as it is meant to be played, while also making it safer through a renewed emphasis on taking the head out of play. Our players have totally owned this thought. They understand the game can be played at a championship level without using the head. We are seeing this change throughout football at all levels, advanced in par t by USA Football and its Heads Up Football program, which the Seahawks and the NFL proudly endorse. Our coaching staff put together a film to show our tackling system. Inspired in par t by rugby techniques, we’ve taught this system for the last four years with the Seahawks and since our days at USC. We found our “shoulder-tackling” style to be successful in the NFL and college and wanted to share it with you. If you are a parent, we encourage you to make sure your child’s coaches are teaching the proper fundamentals and are cer tified by USA Football. Check out usafootball.com/headsup to learn more. Best wishes for a great season, Coach Carroll 52 mindful December 2014 performance