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Benjamin Strause

English 1010
April, 2
Its Different Here

In June 2013, Chris Ballard, the director of player personnel for the Kansas City Chiefs,
stepped to the podium to give a speech during the Rookie Symposium that welcomes new
draftees into the NFL. He stated, Most of you will not be in this league three years from now
Nobody cares about your problems. The fans dont care. The media doesnt care. And the
ownership doesnt care. They care about results. This speech was given just months after
Kansas City linebacker, Jovan Belcher, shot his girlfriend nine times, then drove to the parking
lot of the team facility and committed suicide. The reality is in a suck it up NFL culture,
anyone in the league could have given that speech. What looks to be an unsure NFL future
brought on by the new findings of the long term effects of repeated concussions, now more than
ever players emotions are needed to be dealt with in the right way. In a league that looks down
upon vulnerability and has had a long history in the attitude of keeping your problems to
yourself, change is hard to achieve with the fear of losing respect from the players, media and
fans. With all that said, What if a team had the guts to block all of that noise out and finally take
care of the players in a caring and different manner? That is exactly what the Seattle Seahawks
are doing. With a staff filled with psychologists, training such as yoga, and a new positive and
proactive way of coaching, the Seahawks are looking to change the way an organization is run
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and leave behind all of the stigmas that have been black marked by the NFLs strong tradition of
hard ass coaching and a shut up and play mentality.
Following the 1999 NFL season, Pete Carroll was fired by the New England
Patriots after three lackluster years as head coach. The Patriots owner, Robert Kraft, just didnt
understand his unique and bizarre way of coaching. Pete had this soft way of talking, would say
things to the players that sounded like they were from fortune cookies and was interested in stuff
like the potential of the human mind and the power of positive energy. Kraft didnt want a coach
like that and following Carrolls departure, he was even quoted calling him very
unfootballlike. Kraft wanted a traditional, hard hitting, cutthroat football coach that emulated
the famous teeth grinding coaches of past eras. After, Carroll agonized over what he would do
differently if he was to return to a NFL coaching job.
His next decade of coaching however did not come in the NFL, instead he became the
head coach at the University of Southern California. Thought of taking over a dying football
program, he turned the programs philosophy and record alike, seeing tremendous success
leading the Trojans to seven top-10 finishes and a BCS national championship. His success
would lead to many NFL teams pursuing him for a head coaching job, but Carroll hesitated to
return after his recent experience in New England. In 2010, however, another job came knocking
on his door and this time he felt ready to take on the challenge, accepting the position as head
coach of the Seattle Seahawks.
Over his tenure at USC, Carroll jotted down do-over notes for how he would do things
differently and improve the way he coached versus the previous years he had in the NFL. His
dream was to fundamentally change the way players are coached in the league. It began with
compiling a staff of people who believed in a similar philosophy. He wanted to find people who
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were positive, unorthodox, and saw things differently than every other person in the league.
Carroll started with a new general manager and zeroed in on a scrappy, young guy named John
Schneider. Although only 38 at the time, Schneider had already built a reputation as an outside
the box thinker. In 1992, as a junior at the University of Minnesota, he wrote a letter to the
Packers GM Rob Wolf explaining to him why he would make a great NFL scout. Rob Wolf
became very intrigued by this impassioned letter and brought Schneider on as in intern, and he
has been in this league ever since.
For the following months in the 2010 offseason, Carroll and Schneider stayed up day and
night, sometimes sleeping on their office couches, to make up the roster they believed would be
able to perform the best in the following seasons. They wanted to fill the roster not with just the
most talented players but with the players they thought had the right attitude and mindset to
continue with Carrolls positive philosophy. They valued not only just the players physical traits
but more importantly they valued the interview sessions more than anyone in the league. They
would pay very close attention on the players word choice and any negative language or finger
pointing. They wanted a mature player who would admit faults, hold accountability and would
exude optimism. By the end of 2010, in a year of transition for the organization, the Seahawks
would see over 200 player moves, they wanted guys who truly bought in.
At the start of the 2011 training camp, the team and organization would walk into a
different, almost bizarre scene then what was the normal of a first day to start the season. On the
sidelines there was a coach who wasnt yelling and screaming like a mad man but a coach who
was running around, talking to players individually with positive reinforcement, and a work ethic
filled with passion and energy. In meetings he would recommend to the players if they are
having trouble in their lives whether it be sleeping habits, depression, or something as small as
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feeling sluggish in practice to talk to the newly staffed team psychologist. All of the Seahawks
staff is encouraged to use the support staff in a way the business world relies on the human
resources department. In the staff it includes a specialist in each important area of the NFL
players life. There is a director of player development, who acts as a liaison between players and
management; a life skills consultant/ addiction counselor, who helps with a player during a
transition period as such entering or leaving the NFL or being sent to a new team; and a high
performance sports psychologist Mike Gervais, set to help players reach their full potential and
calm their minds.
Gervais also runs meditation during the season to help players learn to calm their minds,
visualize success and reach guys at a different level. It seems to be working as well as players are
starting to come around to the benefits of meditation in their performance. Offensive tackle
Russell Okung, Seattles first round pick in Carroll and Schneiders first draft in 2010, says,
Meditation is just as important as lifting weights and being out there on the field for practice. It
is about quieting your mind and getting into certain states where everything outside of you
doesnt matter in that moment. Meditations benefits have shown to decrease your heart rate and
keep you calm in moments of high stress and panic. It is something starting quarterback Russell
Wilson has taken very seriously, having an individualized longer meditation with Gervais, to
help learn to keep him calm in times of extreme pressure. Along with meditation, the players
practiced yoga and it actually became a permanent and mandated part of practice after players
loved it so much and felt the benefits it could bring to your performance.
In the bizarre world of Carroll every preconceived notion of how a football franchise run
is thrown out the door. Now more than ever may be the right time for a change as in the past
decade has seen many NFL players speak out about depression, commit extreme acts of violence
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and commit suicide. A lot of light has been brought up in the discussion of concussions recently
and the long term effects it has including CTE. CTE is degenerative disease brought on by a
severe head injury or multiple concussions, one of the most common injuries in professional
football. Symptoms of the disease include; memory loss, aggression, dementia, confusion and
depression. In recent news, suicide has been one of the main topics discussed about with NFL
players developing CTE. Hall of fame caliber players such as Dave Duerson in 2011 and most
recently Junior Seau in 2012 have ended their own lives in what has been studied to be from
symptoms of CTE.
Jimmy Stewart, a former NFL defensive back and current licensed therapist, left the NFL
as an alcoholic and an emotional wreck. He stated that, The four years I played in the NFL were
some of the most horrendous years of my life. I badly needed someone to talk to and I know so
many guys today who feel the same. After retiring he earned a masters degree in counseling
and has gone into making it a goal to overall improve the mental health of athletes. The past few
years has been a disappointment to him as he is met with arrogance and unreturned calls as he
tries to lobby himself to NFL teams hoping to implement a mental health program in their
organization. He believes players need to be able to express their feelings in a healthy
environment within the organization. Talking about concussions is important, but players are
not committing suicide because they have CTE, he says. They are committing suicide because
they refuse to be vulnerable. CTE can cause symptoms of depression, but it is the isolation and
invulnerability that causes you to commit suicide. When Stewart first heard the news of what is
going on in Seattle, he started crying tears of joy.
The Seattle experiment could be a glimpse into the future of how an organization is run in
the NFL. With the new idea that happy players make for better players, Carroll is hoping for a
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kinder and more open minded future for the league. As reigning Super Bowl champs, maybe the
Seahawks finally got the edge they needed, or maybe they would have won it anyway? Either
way when the game is over, the players can go home and know that their organization is one that
truly cares about their life outside of what brings in the revenue.

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Work Cited
1. Carroll, Pete. Roth, Yogi. Garin, Kristoffer A. Win Forever: Live, Work and Play like a
Champion. New York, NY
Penguin Publishing 7/26/2011
2. Roenigk, Alyssa. "Lotus Pose on Two" ESPN the Magazine September 2013 pages 65-72
3. Lazarus, Arthur. NFL and common sense Physician Executive. Jan/Feb2011, Vol. 37
Issue 1, p6-9.
4. Austin, Michael W. Football and Philosophy: Going Deep Lexington, KY
The University Press of Kentucky May/8/2009
5. Zinser, Lynn. Title for Seahawks is a Triumph for the Profile of Yoga New York Times.
2/5/2014, Vol. 163 Issue 56403, pB16-B16