“IT’S DIFFERENT HERE,” Pete Carroll says. “Have you noticed?” It’s hard not to. At 9 a.m. on the first Sunday of training camp in Renton, Wash., high-performance sports psychologist Mike Gervais, dressed in a navy Seahawks hoodie and white baseball cap and flashing more enthusiasm than is rational at this hour, welcomes players into a meeting room at the Virginia Mason Athletic Center. This place used to be the site of a coal tar refinery; now it’s the happiest, greenest campsite in the history of the NFL. Gervais is about to lead a meditation session and, as he always does, instructs the players to hit record on their phone voice-recorder apps and to close their eyes. Then he starts guiding them: “Quiet your minds,” “Focus your attention inwardly” and “Visualize success.”
This is the Pete Carroll experience we always hear about. After flaming out as an NFL head coach, Carroll rebuilt his rep as an ultracompetitive buddy coach at USC. But beneath the perpetual smile was a guy who thought, more than anything, there was a better way to win. Meditation is only part of it. After Carroll was fired by the Patriots following the 1999 season, he agonized over what he’d do differently if he landed another NFL head-coaching job. Almost every day for the better part of a decade, while leading Southern Cal to seven top-10 finishes and one BCS title, he jotted down do-over notes. His dream was to fundamentally change the way players are coached. The timeworn strategy is, of course, to be a hard-ass — think Bear Bryant banning water breaks, Vince Lombardi screaming and yelling, Mike Rice throwing basketballs at players’ heads, Nick Saban berating his team on the sideline. Carroll craved a chance to reimagine the coaching role in the NFL. “I wanted to find out if we went to the NFL and really took care of guys, really cared about each and every individual, what would happen?”
Part of the formula the Seahawks are using includes High Performance Psychologist Mike Gervais. University of Michigan student-athletes who are interested maximizing performance are encouraged to take advantage of the Performance Psychology Team, which can be found under the U-M Athletic Department dropdown menu.