Shutdown Corner - NFL

Carroll’s ‘Win Forever’ seminars answer some questions, occlude others

RENTON, Wash. -- NFL coaches are doing different things during the lockout — writing books, spending time with family, making plans for training camps they hope will actually happen. Seattle Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll has been spending his time taking his "Win Forever" message around the country in a series of seminars in which he talks to local coaches and business leaders in conjunction with other speakers from different walks of life — former higher-ups at NIKE, high-school football training specialists, gang and substance abuse interventionists, motivational speakers, and local people with something to add in a motivational sense. He bought his message home to the Virginia Mason Athletic Center, the Seahawks' training facility, for a Friday evening seminar in front a packed house in the VMAC's auditorium.

"This is a great opportunity, not only for us to present, but also for the people who are joining us … we're talking to the new generation of coaches, and preparing them for the next generation of athletes," Carroll said before the seminar started. "NIKE has found a way to connect us with their [high-school] combines; hopefully we'll have a packed house, and a lot of fun, and we'll tell them what we're all about.

"We're talking about philosophy, we're talking about approach, we're talking about communication. Understanding the learners we're dealing with — we're talking about everything to do with football except for the Xs and Os. We'll have coaches from different sports, and people from the corporate world, as well."

There were the usual slightly oversold messages you'd expect in any sort of motivational meeting, and some of the participatory stuff was a bit over-the-top, but there was value in the evening in that people were willing, to a degree, to examine different ways to improve through their own mis-steps. Running audience members through ladder drills to prove the value of encouragement and asking one volunteer to stand on a stool to find out how much practice he'd need to stand on one as tall as the Space Needle ... these were clearly props put in place to make a larger point.

Carroll’s ‘Win Forever’ seminars answer some questions, occlude others

Carroll drove his own message home as much with past failures with the New York Jets and New England Patriots as with his recent success at USC and in Seattle. The moral: Just as it takes a long time to become a person, coaching doesn't happen overnight.

After pointing to the importance of a clear philosophy, Carroll went back and discussed how things went for him when he didn't have one. "I was fired in New England, from my job with the Patriots — I've been told by my counselor that it's important to bring that up every now and then — I got fired from the Jets; I got fired a bunch of times. I've had my butt kicked in coaching. But that's not important — what's important is, where did all those experiences get me to?"

Carroll talked about reading John Wooden's 'Pyramid of Success' after a fan had sent it to him following the New England firing, and how he wrote out page after page in a fit of inspiration, trying to define himself as a coach. Over time, he learned to refine his message and make it hit home. A few months ago, I asked him how he was a different NFL coach now, and I was impressed by the consistency of the message.

If there's one thing I would advise for future seminars, it would be to open the dialogue on what happened at USC from a violations perspective during Carroll's time there. It was unfortunate that this wasn't addressed during this presentation when everything was supposed to be so much about learning from one's past -- the "hands-off" nature of that line of inquiry drew back from the professed line of honesty. Having covered the Seahawks through Carroll's first year with them, I had no trouble buying in to the idea that the man could, in his own vernacular, "coach the heck out of everybody." But I think the opportunity to bring a deeper set of messages was missed, and I hope that changes.

As most coaches say, 'It is what it is.' It was an interesting glimpse into the mind of a motivator.

A few football notes: Before the seminar, Carroll spoke with the media about how this offseason has been different for him. "Well, it's been different in that we're not working with the players — that's just the most obvious thing. Other than that, we've just been patient in supporting the whole process of the lockout, and we'll just wait and see what happens. We're ready for anything, and we're just going to wait until the announcements come out. Camp is ready to go, and if there's time for minicamps and OTAs, we'll just jump in as soon as we can. Our guys are on call to do that."

It should also be of interest to Seahawks fans that free-agent quarterback Matt Hasselbeck(notes), the subject of rumors tying him to a dozen different teams when the lockout ends, had several appearances in the seminar's accompanying film presentations. It's clear that Carroll respects Hasselbeck a great deal; just something to add to the speculation.

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