Seahawks coach Pete Carroll talks about 'getting right.' A middle-school teacher and counselor explains how her own students - and many Seahawks fans - can apply that in their own lives.

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Listen to an interview or news conference with Seahawks coach Pete Carroll and you’re bound to hear the phrase “getting right.”

“Getting right” seems to hold a deep and very personal meaning to him. When he speaks about “getting right” he’s incredibly sincere, almost poignant, in his description of what the phrase means.

I’ve been an ardent Seahawks fan since the first games kicked off at the Kingdome 40 years ago. During that time I’ve been a teacher, parent, counselor, consultant and advisor — but always a fan. I’ve raised three lovely children and welcomed six grandchildren. I can say proudly that they all faithfully don the Seahawks colors every Blue Friday and game-day Sunday to support our team. I’ve followed every coach in Seahawks history, read every article I could find and — much to my husband’s amusement become a hard-core listener of sports-talk radio.

Chris Gentes
Chris Gentes

I’ve loved all of our teams and stood loyally by them, but no team has inspired as much admiration, love and keen interest as Pete Carroll’s team.

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What is it about this team and this coach that inspires such passion, love and interest? I believe it starts and ends with the philosophical vision of Carroll himself. I recently went back and replayed the interview he had with Matt Lauer on “Today” just days after last year’s Super Bowl’s loss. Lauer was probing deeply and directly into the Carroll’s state of mind after that traumatic loss to the New England Patriots.

“What about Pete Carroll the man?” he asked.

Pete took a breath and looked at him and reiterated his noteworthy phrase. “It started that I had to get right. I had to get my mind around this right now so that I could do what I needed to do.”

Carroll went on to talk about all the people who depended on him and understood on a visceral, gut level that no one would be able to move forward in the organization if he didn’t take the time to get himself right. But how does one go about “getting right?”

If you look further into Seahawks philosophy, you’ll find that the word “grit” comes up quite frequently as well. Dr. Angela Duckworth, a renowned psychologist from the University of Pennsylvania coined this term. Her book, “Grit, The Power of Passion and Perseverance” has gained critical attention. She developed what is known as a ‘grit scale’ where students were assessed (or self-assessed) based on some relatively simple questions. The final attributes that they determined were the most reliable predictors of success were zest, grit, self-control, social intelligence, gratitude, optimism and curiosity. The central message is that capable, responsible, autonomous and successful adults have highly developed “grit scale” factors.

Carroll invited her to visit the Virginia Mason Athletic Center (VMAC), the Seahawks’ training facility, to watch grit in action. When I first started to study the work of Duckworth to motivate my middle-school students, I noticed that Duckworth stated while she could identify “grit” where she saw it that she wasn’t exactly sure how to teach someone how to establish a grittier work ethic or philosophy. Carroll demonstrated grit in action.

I suggest that “getting right” is all about developing and creating grit.

So how does one “get right”?

Seahawks coach Pete Carroll threw off his headset after the interception in the final seconds of last year’s Super Bowl loss to the Patriots. (Bettina Hansen / The Seattle Times)
Seahawks coach Pete Carroll threw off his headset after the interception in the final seconds of last year’s Super Bowl loss to the Patriots. (Bettina Hansen / The Seattle Times)

Tell the Truth Monday: We all have Tell the Truth Mondays in our lives. That means when adversity happens – when (not if) we fail — rather than bemoan that failure, we should have a transparent, painstaking look at exactly what happened and dissect it so thoroughly that we can point out every mistake, flaw, lack of preparation or simple misunderstanding that occurred. Curiosity plays a big role here. We have to actually be curious about what went wrong and even more curious about how to right those errors. Failure gives one the opportunity to develop exceptional character strength, the kind of strength that impels one forward. Some say that embracing failure is the pathway to success. As the great John Wooden stated, “A guy who’s unwilling to risk failure is not going to have to face success much.”

Make a plan: When we have the courage, strength and discipline to study our failures systematically and dispassionately we open ourselves up to learning, growth and unlimited possibilities. Within our failures are the seeds for getting stronger, smarter, and better at anything we want to do. When we really understand where we went wrong, it’s easier to create logical plans and to lay out concrete steps to change our path. The plan needs to be deliberate, detailed, measurable and doable. Creating the plan is only the beginning – it is the execution stage that makes it happen.

Practice and compete relentlessly: Once the plan has been designed, a system of exercises or activities should begin. This phase is ongoing — subject to change after yet another Tell the Truth Monday — and success happens when the execution is done with integrity and fidelity. The function of this level of preparation is to believe that it is going to take you to a level where success is not only possible but probable. Optimism, endurance, resiliency and perseverance are part of this practice.

Seahawks coach Pete Carroll’s positive outlook doesn’t mean he hides from failures or the truth those failures uncover. (Erika Schultz / The Seattle Times)
Seahawks coach Pete Carroll’s positive outlook doesn’t mean he hides from failures or the truth those failures uncover. (Erika Schultz / The Seattle Times)

Believe in the process: In Coach Carroll’s words, “When you believe that you can prepare yourself to be successful and that things are going to work out, then you have a sense of boldness that other people might not understand because they always fear that things might go the other way.” That sense of boldness and confidence may be the difference between good and great. It may actually start to define what success can look like.

• Repeat and review as necessary!

I suggest that we could all use the Carroll philosophy of “getting right” to make improvements in our everyday lives. I know I’ve tried to infuse it into my work as a middle-school counselor, and that it can be magic. I imagine that the VMAC is a very special place indeed, one infused with grit, optimism, curiosity.

What has touched me with Coach Carroll is that we’ve literally studied the same people, embraced the same philosophies and channeled the same mission in our careers. How wonderful for our city that Pete Carroll chose to combine his positive philosophy and do it through football.  I’ve applied mine to middle-school kids. Clearly, his arena is much bigger, more glamorous and exciting than mine. But last year when I spoke to the graduating class of Eastlake High School at their baccalaureate, I framed my speech around some of the values and principles that Pete has espoused. His message transcends football.

That philosophy can and should inspire and motivate the fans that cheer on the Seahawks. Why can’t normal, everyday people use the same principles in their everyday lives by “getting right”.

What a joy to be part of this team.

Go, Hawks!

Chris Gentes is longtime Seahawks fan who has been a teacher and school counselor for the past 40 years and is now consulting for the Lake Washington School District in the area of college and career readiness. She lives in Sammamish with her husband.

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