Practice is everything. That's a phrase you'll hear a lot if you spend enough time around Seahawks coach Pete Carroll, because practice is vital piece of his "always compete" philosophy.
To provide a look at how the Seahawks do things in practice, Carroll and Seahawks.com teamed up to make a video that breaks down some of the key elements of his team's practices.
A successful practice for Carroll's Seahawks begins before anyone takes the field. First coaches get together to make sure everyone is ready for that day's workout, and as Carroll notes, the high level of energy he wants in his practices has to start with him and his staff.
"Energy of practice hugely important to us," Carroll said. "The tempo we expect is everything they've got. So we try to find a way to practice at full-speed, full-tempo every chance we go, and the coaches have to lead that and the players have to follow suit… Hopefully we practice faster and sharper than anyone can practice this game.
"It's really on the coaches to have their mind right and their attitude right, they've got to be jacked up every day. So it starts with me, and I kind of pass it along."
Another thing that takes place before the first whistle sounds is a small act that Carroll calls a "big deal"—his players tapping in on the "I'm In" sign before they take the field.
"That's to start their whole process for the day's work," Carroll said. "When they tap that sign, they're making an affirmation, it's a positive statement about what they intend to do. They're coming out here to give everything they've got, hold nothing back. The whole world that may be troubling them is left to the side now, and it's just about practicing football our way."
Once players are on the field, it's "all about the attention to detail," Carroll said, even in "the littlest things," be it hand placement or footwork in a specific drill, or the way each player lines up for another.
And when they watch players, coaches are judging effort before success on a given play or drill.
"We're looking at how they give their effort first," Carroll said. Carroll added that the focus in practice is not on what players or the team gets wrong, but rather on "desired outcome."
"It's not about what went wrong or what the mistake was," Carroll said. "We don't think you have to emphasize mistakes, we have to be disciplined about how we use our language. We're always talking about the next thing you can do right—how exactly you can step with your feet, place your hands, fit your helmet. So it's always about what we want to happen, not talking about the other stuff."
Throughout practice, another key is to be practicing fast. Carroll makes his practices intense enough and so high-paced that additional conditioning sessions before or after practice are not necessary.
"We're not out here for three hours," he said. "We practice for about two hours, that's all we want to be out here, and to do that, to get our work done, there can be no wasted motion at all. I can't stand watching coaches stop drills and stand there and talk to players, and everyone's standing around during practice. It kills me to see that. We've just got to keep moving. You can talk in meetings, you can talk afterwards, but during practice, we're rolling.
"We elevate the energy guys have to use in practice and between drills. We're running the whole time. If you're walking, you're wrong around here."
And yes, Seahawks practices are well known for the music that blares throughout, something Carroll likes both because it adds an element of fun, but also because it helps the team prepare for a game-day environment, which can provide plenty of distractions.
"It adds a rhythm to our practice that makes it unique and special, more fun," he said. "I like it, players like it, and it also gives us an element of the noise and distraction that surround all of our games. You have to focus a little bit more when it's loud, so we think it helps us in a lot of ways, and it's just more fun."
Of course, with anything Carroll's team does, competition is key, and that's especially true in practice.
"Competition is the central theme in our program, so we're competing in everything we do," he said. "We're competing to throw a great practice, we're competing to have great drills, we're competing to work and hustle every day. To me, the competition is what elevates the guys' involvement in the fun that they have in practice—somebody's going to win, somebody's going to lose. We keep score. We don't make a big deal about it, but it's still at hand, and it makes a huge difference in the energy that they bring on a regular basis.
"These guys understand that the competition is about striving for what you want, not about beating somebody down. So our guys learn hopefully to appreciate that the guy across from them is the guy that makes them—the nose tackle and the center, the tight end and the linebacker, the safety and the receivers—they know that it's the other guy that makes him work really hard. So that's where the competition really pays off. They hopefully learn to love the guy across from them, because he's the one that makes them become what they can be."
In the end, Carroll says one of the most important things for any coach is not to do things the way the Seahawks do them, but rather that coaches are true to their beliefs and consistent in how they do things.
"We have a real format that we believe in," Carroll said. "And I don't think it's the format that's so important, but it's that you have one and you keep it consistent so the players know what to expect and the coaches know what to expect so everyone can do things really well. Practice is really a performance for us, and we want it to be really sharp and really precise and really on point, so it really starts with the discipline and organization."
The best photos from Seahawks practices at Virginia Mason Athletic Center throughout the 2016 season.