How to Win the Super Bowl...and the Game of Life: The Real Secrets of Head Coach Pete Carroll

by Raymond David Salas

Pete Carroll, the head coach of the Seattle Seahawks, became only the third coach in football history to win a national championship in college football and a Super Bowl in the NFL, with his recent win in Super Bowl XLVIII.

So, how did he do it? What are his secrets? 

More importantly, can his philosophy and approach be applied to this “game of life” we’re all in together? Well, I believe it can.

Here are the secrets of Pete Carroll for not only winning the Super Bowl, but also the bigger Game of Life:

How to Win the Super Bowl...and the Game of Life:
The Real Secrets of Head Coach Pete Carroll

- Look for the best in people. Celebrate what makes each person unique.

“We don’t LET them be themselves, we CELEBRATE them being themselves. We cheerlead for them to be themselves, and we try to bring out the very best that they have to offer. … That’s kind of how we operate.” - Pete Carroll

- Inspire hope. Motivate others to be their absolute best.

“The philosophy of the whole thing is we’re doing this one person at a time. It’s one person talking to one person and transferring a person with a vision of despair to hope. We have to help sculpt a vision for those types of people. So it isn’t so hopeless.” - Pete Carroll

- Follow a higher purpose.

“If I could be so bold as to take a stab at articulating Carroll's (higher purpose), I'd say that it might go a little something like this: ‘Helping people improve their lives and achieve great things by providing opportunities to show the world who they are at their best.’ “ - Elise Touchette, Life Coach

- See challenges as opportunities. Bring out the greatness in others.

“He looks for the best in people. He considers all challenges an opportunity to do something extraordinary. So he can interact with people on the margins — in terms of character or even talent — and cull greatness.” - Jerry Brewer, The Seattle Times

- Treat those closest to you like family. Make the group, the team, not the individual, the primary focus.

“One of the most impressive qualities of our Super Bowl Champion Seattle Seahawks is the comradery the team has - the family spirit that has extended all the way to the 12th Man (the fans)! Carroll ‘gets’ each of those personalities and values his players as individuals. This is what invites them in to be a part of something bigger than themselves. For all the ego in the NFL, there was exponentially more ‘we’ talk from the Seahawks players than there was ‘me’ talk.  Carroll was able to bring all of these individual together as a team.” - Elise Touchette

- Be authentic. Be real.

“He’s able to put across his philosophy because it’s real. It’s not fake. It’s not just words. It’s from his heart and his brain and all his experience...With him, it’s just… real. There’s nothing fake about him at all.” - John Schneider, Seattle Seahawks’ general manager

- Trust yourself. Stay true to yourself.

“I was raised as a traditional coach, the people I was around, the ones that influenced me so much, all the way back to my high school days, my (youth football) days. I found out over time that I saw things a little differently than other guys, and it was pointed out to me that I was off track by some of my over-traditional guys. I went with my [convictions] and didn't think I had to answer to that." - Pete Carroll

- Focus on helping others.

“Helping people be the best they can be — it doesn’t matter what you’re talking about. Football, or whether you ‘re talking about business, or talking about families — the language and the intent and doing everything you can to help them. I can understand why that does resonate, and I’m very excited about that, because I know that the message goes beyond football.” - Pete Carroll

- Forgive others. Help others learn from their mistakes. Believe in them. Be willing to give them a second chance, wherever possible.

“Just because you make a mistake doesn’t mean that you don’t have all the good in you — for your future. People make mistakes all the time. We learn and grow. If there’s patience and love and you care for people, you can work them through it, and they can find their greatest heights. I love that this message is part of our program, because it really needs to be part of a lot of programs.” 

“Over the years, I’ve always found myself looking for guys that maybe other people don’t see something special in, and maybe we take a chance on a guy here or there that needs some extra consideration and care.” - Pete Carroll

- Visualize the success you desire. Develop a success mindset.

"This (winning the Super Bowl) is exactly what we envisioned from day one. We were going to be right here and win this football game — and it just happened to be in New York. which makes it even more special — in the fashion that we were able. We deserved it and we earned it because this is exactly what we've been preparing for, and we expected it. That may sound cocky. That may sound arrogant. But it's a mentality you can't get in one week.”

"This team has a foundation. They came in here knowing (that winning the Super Bowl) could likely happen. There's not one of those guys that's surprised about it, because we knew what it takes. That's a long process, to bring guys into that mentality. You're coaching with a very strict, disciplined approach. That's how they've learned it." - Pete Carroll

- Have fun. Be enthusiastic.

“No one has more fun coaching than Pete Carroll.” - Joe Buck, Super Bowl XLVIII announcer

“He’s the No. 1 guy. …a white-haired party animal.” - Malcolm Smith, Seattle Seahawaks’ linebacker

- See the bigger picture. Follow your mission. Pursue a greater good.

“...if you can’t appreciate that Carroll has a greater mission to improve lives, you’ll never fully understand him.” - Jerry Brewer, The Seattle Times

- Overcome failures. Learn from your mistakes.

Pete Carroll was a head coach in the NFL two previous times, for the New York Jets and the New England Patriots. He was fired from both positions. But, that didn’t stop him...

"It was the greatest opportunity in the world to be a head coach in the New York area, and I understand why that's so powerful. I  was really disappointed I didn't have a chance to see it through. But that's only a moment in time for me, just a moment in time . . . If anything, it just kicked me in the butt in a better way. Sometimes that has to happen." - Pete Carroll

- Overcome your doubts. Face your fears.

What doubts did Pete Carroll need to overcome? What fears?

“Was he too soft to be an effective head coach, as his critics suggested? Was his up-tempo, rah-rah approach that relied so much on positivity simply ill-suited to the NFL? Or should he try the college route and give up his dream of coaching at the highest level of the game?” - Bob Glauber, Newsday 

- Embrace change. Be willing to step outside your comfort zone. Keep growing and challenging yourself. 

After being fired twice as a head coach in the NFL, Pete Carroll built and maintained a dynasty in college as head coach at USC, which included seven straight Pac-10 Championships, two National Championships, and 33 straight weeks at #1. 

But, did he settle for this?

“I thought I would never leave USC. It was a perfect situation and I loved it. Everything was formatted so that I could really do things the way I wanted to do them and I had tremendous freedom and support, but I always knew that the NFL was the most competitive level that you could get involved with in the world of football. I always had that in the back of my mind that I wanted to see what would happen, particularly after the years at USC as we had success. I wanted to see what would happen if we translated this to the NFL and see what the result was.” - Pete Carroll

- Stay balanced and focused. Keep your successes in perspective.

"One of the things that happens every so often is teams have a big fallout after they win the Super Bowl. We're not in that situation."

“We have what we need. We just need to get back to work, when the time comes, with the right attitude and the right focus. That’s all I’m concerned about.”

“It’s an extraordinary opportunity, because it’s so difficult for teams to come back and play well after winning the Super Bowl. We take that challenge on now, nose to nose. We’re going to go after it and see what we can do about it.” - Pete Carroll


The Secret of Pete Carroll's Success

If it could all be summed up, what’s the secret to Pete Carroll’s success? 

He appeals to each player’s strengths, opens their eyes to greater possibilities and challenges them to reach their potential. And, he treats them all with respect. 

“One of the things Carroll has learned is that he must find his own ways in which his messages will resonate with his players. He believes in love. He believes in redemption. He believes in finding the best in the people around him and challenging them to find it at all times.” - Doug Farrar, Sports Illustrated