The Shrink on the Seattle Seahawks’ Sideline

hawk-shrink

The Super Bowl Champions Swear by a Sports Psychologist

Matthew Futterman writes: For most of the last two seasons, the Seattle Seahawks have been the most physically prepared team in the NFL, a collection of perfectly honed athletes that can outrun and outmuscle opponents at will.

“We want to invite the lion into the room and learn how to pet him. Our mind is easily distracted by thoughts and sounds and smells, and when our mind is distracted, we decrease our ability to perform.”

The Seahawks’ secret weapon, though, just might be the team’s willingness to give a sports psychologist the freedom to roam the training facility, locker room and even the sidelines every game, to make sure their heads are as sound as their bodies.

“We need to get better at being present, and you can be present by understanding and deepening the insight about who we are and how our mind works.”

For nearly three seasons, Michael Gervais has spent three days a week with the team, instilling what he and coach Pete Carroll refer to as “relationship-based coaching.” In the simplest terms, this means making sure coaches and players all understand each other on the deepest possible level, so that everyone feels valued and can communicate effectively.

“It’s the most fascinating culture I have ever been able to witness. There is a relentless approach to the idea that relationships matter.”

“We are an incredibly mindful team,” said Tom Cable, the Seahawks’ offensive line and assistant head coach, using an adjective that rarely comes across the lips of an NFL coach. “If I can understand someone like (guard) James Carpenter at a higher and deeper level, then I reach him further in terms of getting him to be the best he can be.”

“There is the overt objective and need to have the organization achieve. Some organizations sell widgets and some, like the Seahawks, sell outcomes, and the foundation of a great outcome is a relationship.”

— Sports Psychologist Michael Gervais

This sort of pursuit isn’t new to the sports world. Sports figures have long aspired to what is commonly referred to as “mindfulness”—an ability to perform without worrying about what has just happened or what might happen next. The Seahawks also are hardly the first team to give players access to a shrink. But Cable and defensive line coach Travis Jones, who have more than four decades of college and pro coaching between them, say they have never seen a team listen so intently to someone like Gervais, a former competitive surfer based in Marina del Ray, Calif.

What has made Gervais the sports psychologist of the moment, working with clients as varied as the Seahawks, beach volleyball star Kerri Walsh Jennings and space-diver Felix Baumgartner, is an approach that emphasizes the root causes of an athlete’s anxiety, whether it is domestic troubles or a bad relationship with a parent….(read more)

WSJ

Write to Matthew Futterman at matthew.futterman@wsj.com

 



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.