Losing in any sport isn’t fun. But it can be especially disheartening in football.
Unlike baseball or basketball, there typically isn’t another chance to take the field and bounce back until a week later. Though everyone tries to erase losses from memory quickly, the bitter taste of defeat can simmer and linger for players and coaches as they prepare for the next game.
Depending on the situation, stewing over loss can provide much-needed motivation for teams. But it can also be detrimental mentally and as losses pile up, the season can spiral out of control quickly.
Coinciding with the arrival of quarterback Russell Wilson in 2012, the Seahawks have been as good as any team in the NFL at rebounding from a loss, posting a 29-7 record in such instances over the past eight seasons.
Wilson attributes Seattle’s success in games following a defeat to a consistent approach to preparation each week.
“Every game, we always say this, but every game, we view it as a championship game and championship preparation.” Wilson told reporters on Thursday. “No matter how well it goes, or how tough it is, we still have the same approach next week. We leave it behind and we focus on the next moment.”
Wilson’s calm demeanor and steadfast belief in his teammates has certainly helped Seattle avoid losing streaks. But everything starts with coach Pete Carroll, who learned the hard way not to put too much stock into any one particular game.
During his first season as coach at USC, Carroll’s team traveled to South Bend to face Notre Dame. With the Trojans sitting at 2-4, a signature road win over a bitter rival would be a statement win for the rebuilding program.
“I had been told in the buildup to that game that this is the biggest thing in the world.” Carroll said. “You’re going to hear the bells ringing when you walk through the arches of the stadium to see the scoreboard and all of the stuff. You’re going to hear all of the echoes. I made the biggest deal out of that game.”
Putting the game on a pedestal, Carroll took his team to the grotto and “Touchdown Jesus” at Notre Dame among other things. But it turned out to be the “biggest waste of time I have ever encountered.”
Responding poorly to the changes in preparation, the Trojans came out flat and the Fighting Irish beat them 27-17 at Notre Dame Stadium. Learning from the debacle, Carroll vowed he’d never again make one game seem more important than others and viewing every game as a championship became the new norm.
“That’s when the mentality kicked in. It wasn’t all at once, but that was when the mentality kicked in that no longer are we going to make a game any different than any other one. It took away all the good things that we had just diminished in the midst of all of the hoopla and the buildup. It was a waste of time.”
Carroll and his staff preach consistency preparing for each and every championship opportunity. Through all of the highs and all of the lows of competition, he wants his players to exhibit short-term memory to ensure they won’t miss their next chance to make an impact. It’s a mentality the Seahawks drill over and over and over again.
Those values hold true following both wins and losses. No matter what happened on the previous Sunday, the Seahawks must leave it behind in “disciplined” fashion and focus will shift solely onto the next game.
“Anybody can win sometimes. Anybody can go out and have a good day. It’s can you come back?” Carroll said, adding. “A huge part of it is letting go of what just occurred and don’t let judgement kick in and get in the way of what’s going to happen next. That’s extraordinarily valuable and important on all levels.”
While Wilson saw similarities in how his previous coaches handled preparation game-to-game, nobody models the approach more effectively than the spirited, eternally optimistic Carroll.
“Coach Carroll, he has that whole vibe and that energy of just loving the day, loving the moment, just being in it. Not being outside of it, just being present. He’s, in my opinion, the best to do it, especially at that. We’re grateful for that.”
Coming off a 30-16 setback to the Ravens, Carroll and the Seahawks will look to continue their extended run of success rallying from losses when they travel to Atlanta to square off with the Falcons on Sunday.