Seattle Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll led the team to a Super Bowl victory over the Broncos this past February. For our July issue, SI Kids talked with Carroll about his responsibility as a teacher, motivational tools that work, and one speaker in particular who gave his team an unforgettable pep talk.
When you talk to your team, what is your strategy for putting together your message?
It always depends on what we’re working on. For the most part, I’m trying to get a universal type of a message that will apply to the players who are listening in hopes that they’ll latch onto it and move forward together. I’m trying to move them and motivate them. I usually do that with a lot of energy and with my heart. That’s when the messages are usually the strongest.
Do you have an example of a pep talk that was especially effective?
We had a young man come in and talk to us, a former Navy SEAL who’s a very competitive runner who does all kinds of marathons. He told us a story about when he finished a 50-mile run, and when he crossed the finish line someone said, “You just broke the all-time record in the history of this race.” He said, “Well, what’s next?” We heard that story and it made sense to us. We were always looking into the future. When we call our team up, we say, “What’s next on three,” and then everyone says, “What’s next?” It’s given us a guideline to always keep looking ahead and always keep striving and not let anything in the past hold us back.
What kids of motivational tools have you used that have gotten positive responses from players?
We watch what is going on in the world of sports everyday, and we try to draw from current things that are going on, whether that’s big victories or big losses or challenges or accomplishments or big plays or statements that people make. I show highlights everyday as teachable opportunities. It generates conversation and a dialogue that might not be touched otherwise.
How can young athletes be good listeners?
I look at it the other way around. The teacher has to figure out how to make sure his message has enough energy to it and meaning and purpose that he can attract the listeners. How kids can do better is by being really tuned in and driven to make the most out of every situation so that they are mindful that what’s coming next out of that coach’s mouth may be something important to them, so they’re sitting on the edge of their seat waiting. I don’t count on [athletes] to do it just because they’re supposed to. I try to entertain them to the point that they’re wondering, What’s coming next?
To what extent is it important for kids to feel comfortable going up to their coaches after practice to ask for clarification or help?
I think it’s crucial. We’ve convinced our players that we’re trying to help them be the best they can possibly be. We’re going to do everything we can to help each individual be effective and on his game. We work so hard and convince them that that’s our purpose. After a while, they buy in. When people really know that you care, and it’s really important to you, they will be more receptive and more open. Of course we have to be available to them at all times. It really is a relationship-based conversation between the coach and the player. We care about them so much that they will come to us and they will ask questions, and they’ll feel comfortable doing that. It’s bigger than how can you get them to come talk to you. It’s the whole relationship that you create — and that eventually becomes a trusted relationship where people can communicate in both directions.
Photo: Simon Bruty/Sports Illustrated