Grit, Passion, and Pete Carroll's Psychology: Why Jamal Adams' Camp Attendance Matters

Even though Adams isn't practicing at Seahawks training camp, his VMAC attendance matters. The reasoning is a lot deeper than just Adams' own gain. Matty F. Brown looks at Pete Carroll's psychological beliefs to explain why.
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Jamal Adams is in attendance at Seahawks training camp. However, he is on the sidelines, wearing his No. 33 practice jersey and donning a cap—not a Seahawks helmet. Coach Pete Carroll stated that the star safety would likely have been held out of practice anyway in order to protect his surgically-repaired shoulder and fingers.

It’s only right that Adams holds himself out. Or in this case, orchestrates a "hold in." Before he returns to practice, he and the Seahawks must reach an agreement on a new deal. Why risk millions of dollars during the early install periods of the offseason? It’s much better for a player in Adams’ situation to secure their financial future first, and the defensive weapon, who turns 26 years old in October, has more than earned his pending extension.

Even when not practicing, it’s still important that Adams is at the VMAC during this period. This extends beyond Adams simply being in defensive meetings and observing his teammates in the flesh. There is an added, deeper, intangible importance to training camp and preseason football.

This is explained by exploring the psychological beliefs of Carroll and his methods as a coach. Firstly, he is a great believer in finding players with “grit.” Grit is the key component to “Winning Forever,” to being the best version of oneself. Angela Duckworth, academic and psychologist, developed the “Grit Scale.” According to Duckworth, passion, perseverance, and resilience make up grit. Carroll is a major proponent of Duckworth’s work and even had Duckworth on a visit to the VMAC in May 2016.

“Angela Duckworth didn’t know that you could elevate grit, but we have learned and shown, and she now doesn’t think that way anymore,” Carroll said at the Wisdom 2.0 conference in San Francisco back in February 2016. “You can help people become more passionate and learn how to persevere and understand what it takes to be more resilient.”

Carroll spoke about the type of players the Seahawks search for to Dr. Scott Barry Kaufman’s The Physchology Podcast in May 2020.

“Once we clear the kinda physical requirements that it takes, we’re looking for the attitude that they bring, the mentality that they bring,” Carroll revealed. “We’re looking for, if we had it ideally set up, we’d start with passion. They’d be passionate about what they’re doing.”

Carroll then referenced perseverance, saying, “And we would want to see people that would want to keep coming back at you and not give up and persevere.”

He finished discussing resilience, stating, “And we would hopefully build a relationship with the game that they play where they would develop an attitude where nothing is going to keep them getting what they want to get or go where they want to go. And they could bounce back from whatever and that’s resilience.

I’m just talking right down the line about grit. Those are the elements that really are at the forefront of being gritty, and that’s what we’re looking for.”

In 2017, Carroll delivered a seminar to USC Students entitled ‘Competitive Mindset,’ a part of the university’s performance science program and Dr. Glenn Fox's class on the ‘Science of High Performance.’ A Q and A session followed Carroll’s presentation.

One student asked, “You said earlier that you have specific techniques and strategies for developing athletes or competitors’ passion, perseverance, all the components of grit. What are those techniques specifically, especially with passion and practices?”

Carroll responded by emphasizing passion, which is a huge part of how the Seahawks elevate grit.

“In terms of passion, if you feel somebody that isn’t, then we try—one of the things we do is we connect them, and kinda big brother them, with somebody who really is obviously a passionate person,” Carroll answered.

“And then we watch how that works. It doesn’t always work, they don’t always click. Because sometimes if one person’s really passionate, the other one isn’t, they kinda don’t see eye to eye. But we try to connect them and show them an illustration of what it could be like. Not just tell them, but show them. And we have marvelous players on our team. And I’m constantly promoting those guys for the things they do. So that we keep illustrating those guys that are special to us in hopes that others will want to be more like them.”

Carroll provided an example of how this player mentorship had worked for the Seahawks in the past.

“I got a great illustration. It happened to a player, Byron Maxwell, was a corner that just got traded, or no, got taken in free agency a couple of years back. He latched on to Earl Thomas who was an extraordinary competitor, and he just followed him around. And he was a goof, Maxwell was a goofball. He was just having fun, free-flowing guy, but he wasn’t playing very much. And it hit him one day. What about? Earl’s doing something that I’m not doing and he became a marvelous player just by connecting with habits that were somebody else’s and he latched on to it.”

Maxwell took over at right cornerback after Brandon Browner’s suspension, becoming a major part of the Legion of Boom secondary. He left in 2015 during free agency, signed by the Philadelphia Eagles to a six-year, $63 million contract with $25 million guaranteed. Removed from the Seahawks’ scheme, and perhaps more importantly their culture, Maxwell’s level of play dropped dramatically.

Like Earl Thomas, Adams could also be described as an “extraordinary competitor.” It extends further. In his July 29 press conference after Adams was acquired from the Jets, defensive leader Bobby Wagner praised Adams’ psychological impact.

“His energy is so contagious, it makes you want step your game up," Wagner said.

For a legendary NFL veteran to say that, imagine Adams’ effect on a younger player.

It’s highly likely that Adams, entering Year 2 in Seattle, has become a mentor for a player struggling from a passion perspective. Of course, Carroll would never disclose such a vulnerable detail at the time. However, Adams’ presence at camp, even while not playing, is surely a positive for the psychological aspect of the Seahawks too.

Carlos Dunlap has been impressed with Carroll’s program.

“Business is business, they communicated the business part from the jump. And you gotta respect that,” Dunlap began, answering a July 28th question on being cut prior to signing his 2021 deal with Seattle. “And that’s one of the things that I love here. It’s very clear communication, what we’re doing, what they expect of you, and then they try to get to know you as a person and how they can help you, make you better as a man, because they know making you as a better man makes you a better player as well.”

For a player who had spent time with one of the most stuffy and stingy franchises in the league, the 32-year old pass rusher has clearly been blown away by the Seahawks’ culture.

“So it’s like an all-encompassing approach, like it’s just...I can’t, I’m still trying to figure it all out,” Dunlap continued. “I hope Pete Carroll comes out with a book, ‘cause I would love to run my business the way he runs this.”

Dunlap was informed by the assembled media that Carroll did indeed have a book, entitled “Win Forever.” The defensive end, wanting an audio book edition, would surely enjoy watching Carroll’s various appearances at conferences, seminars, and on podcasts too.

The Seahawks work closely with Doctor Michael Gervais as a high performance psychologist, known for his work on mindfulness. Pete Carroll’s thinking is closely aligned with Gervais, and the two have worked together for the last nine years, partnering to form Win Forever Consulting in 2013 and co-founding the business Compete to Create in 2017.