Why mental training was the 'X Factor' for the Seattle Seahawks Super Bowl win

Growing up in Seattle and also living in Denver, I was excited to see a great Super Bowl game against two of my favorite teams. I felt like I couldn't lose... However, after the 1st quarter, I watched a particular interaction between Manning and his teammates and knew Denver was in trouble. You could see the frustration on Manning’s face and body language. At that point Seattle was up 8 points. (Spoiler: Seattle Seahawks ended up winning the Super Bowl 43-8)

[Tweet "The seahawks secret weapon, #mentaltraining will lead them to the superbowl again and again"]

But then I knew the game was over...

At the start of the second half when Denver came out, a friend of mine who was at the game texted me, "Denver looks shell shocked.” And he was right: you could see that they weren’t going to mount a comeback or even play like the great team they were.

The X factor was the Seahawks’ Mental Training Program:

Was Seattle that much better? No, both teams had great athletes and are excellent football teams. In fact, Denver was expected to win this game. Why didn’t Denver win or at least make it a game? I think this game came down to the mental side of the game. On one hand, Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll is an innovator in teaching and training his whole team on mastering the mental game while Denver doesn’t seem to have an active mental training program.  

Let’s look at how the two teams looked throughout the game:

 

 

Seattle

Denver

Focus & Energy

High Varied from high to low

Body Language

Upbeat, positive Mixed: Sluggish and down trodden

Inter-team Interactions

Positive and reinforcing Varied from positive to negative

While in no way scientific, I saw a palpable difference in how the teams responded and interacted from the 1st play.  

How did one of the youngest teams in history win a Super Bowl?

Because Pete Carroll understands the importance of developing young talent and has a program that trains not just his athletes’ physical fitness and skills but also their mental skills. Here are a few of the ways that the Seahawks develop their mental game:

  • Athletes meditate daily to improve their focus and attitude during games (source abcnews.com)
  • Carroll integrates yoga as a regular component of the team's strength-training workouts
  • Using visualization and affirmations to maintain confidence

I thought QB Russell Wilson said it best after the game,

I believed in myself, my confidence was never going to waver." - Russell Wilson

In a gladiatorial sport known for attitudes, violence and big egos, Pete Carroll has created players who are happier, more motivated, mentally tougher and consistently play at a higher level than their draft pick would indicate. Because of his focus on Mental Training, I believe he gets more out of his players than any other coach in the league.

Mental Training is one of the few ways left to truly gain a competitive edge

As a coach or an athlete, it is critical to integrate Mental Training as a core part of your program. Every coach trains their teams to be physically fit and to execute specific skills with precision. As a coach or an athlete, you can’t rely on being in better shape or being more skilled since everyone is focusing on conditioning and sport-specific skills. . Sure, you might be a little stronger, faster or more skilled but in a game, so many things can happen that you can’t rely on that alone.

However, very few teams dedicate the time and energy to train their players on the mental side of the game. As a result, those teams that do mental training get a considerable edge against their opponents since their athletes will play more consistently, respond better to setbacks and perform closer to their full potential.

The Seahawks are a prime example of developing a competitive advantage with Mental Training. Pete Carroll and the Seattle Seahawks are one of those rare teams in the NFL that understands and emphasizes Mental Training. In fact, I’m willing to bet that you are going to see a lot of Seahawks dominance for the next few years until other teams develop their own Mental Training programs.

Implementing a Mental Training program can be daunting and unlike the Seahawks, you probably don’t have a full time staff of sports psychologists and an NFL-sized budget. However, you don’t need either of those to have an effective Mental Training program.

Here are the five pillars to building an effective Mental Training program:

 

  1. Mental Training is a year-round activity. Just like weight training, you build, reinforce and develop the mental strength, flexibility and resilience you need year-round so players have it when they need it.
  2. Mental Training is a team activity. When you train your whole team, your players build and reinforce each other’s positive mental habits.
  3. Mental Training requires structure, consistency and commitment from the coaches. As a coach, if you don’t prioritize Mental Training your players won’t either. Then, make it easy for both you and your team with a structured and consistent program.
  4. Mental Training should take up 5-10% of your team’s training time. You don’t have to sacrifice a large part of your physical training time to implement Mental Training. Most teams we work with successfully implement our program in under two hours/week for just a few months.
  5. Leverage outside experts to implement Mental Training. Unless you are already an expert, bring someone in to help you develop your program. Do not spend a few years learning, educating and experimenting with different ways to train your athletes. Rather, rely on experts to build your program for you so that you can get the benefits quickly and learn under their guidance.   

Mental Training: The fastest way to develop an edge

Coaches ask us all the time, how quickly do athletes improve? While it depends on how mentally strong your athletes currently are and what you already do, you normally see a big improvement in athletes within a month.


 

To learn more about mental training and how it can transform your program,  watch our free 4 part video series: Mental Training 101. 

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