Lessons For Educators From Super Bowl XLVIII

As I watched the Seattle Seahawks beat the the Denver Broncos 43-8 I was stunned. How could a quarterback under 5’11’’ and a team with very few first round draft picks completely dominate a team like the Broncos from start to finish? I wondered, “Could this be a fluke or accident?”

After the game I purchased Pete Carroll’s book, Win Forever: Live, Work and Play Like A Champion, to find out if the outstanding performance by the Seahawks had anything to do with Pete Carroll’s coaching philosophy and style. After reading the book I realized that the results were no accident, but were the result of the mindset of the coaches and players.

Coach Carroll spent many years of his life studying and learning how to maximize the performance of himself and others. He understands how to get others to give the best of themselves.

As educators we also want to help our students to bring out their best and to maximize their potential. In a sense, we are success coaches, because we want our students to become the best they can be as students and human beings. We can learn and apply lessons from great coaches like Pete Carroll

Here are a few lessons I learned from reading Pete Carroll’s book that can be applied to helping our students perform at their best:
1.Pete Carroll did a lot of self-reflection to develop his self-knowledge. He wrote out his philosophy, vision, goals and core values. He realized who he was, the person that he wanted to become and how he would relate to others. As educators we also need clarity of purpose. What is our personal philosophy and how will we work with students even within the limits placed on us by bureaucracy? What do we want them to achieve? Our own self-knowledge can increase our ability to make a contribution to our students.
2.Coach Carroll does not believe in forcing or coercing performance. He creates an environment where his players develop the confidence to bring out their best. This generates intrinsic motivation that our students also need to strive for their goals.
3.He envisions his players as people with enormous potential. Then they see themselves this way and rise to meet high expectations.
4.We need a consistent philosophy and respect for the uniqueness of each individual. Coach Carroll gets to know his player’s strengths and weaknesses. Then he finds roles for them which accentuate their strengths and compensate for their weaknesses.
5.He instills in his players the belief that the only competition of real value takes place within the individual. His players feel inspired to become their best selves.
6.He teaches that practice is of great importance. His athletes play as hard in practice as in actual football games. They are taught to give their best at all times in their lives and not just in a game. When game time comes it feels much like a practice which reduces anxiety.
7.His win forever philosophy means to maximize your potential and become the best you can be. It becomes an attitude and way of life. Our students are capable of developing a similar mindset.
8.There is always something to improve upon. Improvement can come from taking small steps. We can teach students to take small steps to their big goals and projects.
9.The real opposition is losing focus according to Pete Carroll. Focusing on the priority or task before us is important for success and we can teach this to our students.
10.His players are taught the importance of being fully present in the moment. He doesn’t talk much about winning games or Super Bowls. He believes that players tighten up and perform less effectively when they are concerned with winning. They do better and play more relaxed and confidently when they are focused on doing their best now. Then the results take care of themselves as we saw in the outcome of the Super Bowl. When our students focus more on test scores than learning it can produce anxiety and lower test scores.

The word “Education” comes from the Latin word “educare” which means to bring up or out. How can we as educators help our students to maximize their potential and bring out their best? How can we help them to not only improve as students, but also to become better human beings? Perhaps we can learn from excellent coaches like Pete Carroll and apply some of these ideas for helping our students to become the best they can be.

Copyright 2014. Raymond Gerson

Permission is granted to share this article for non-profit purposes as long as credit for writing it is given to the author.

Raymond Gerson is an adjunct professor of college transition and career exploration/planning courses for Austin Community College.