Seahawks Coach Pete Carroll Branches Out Into Academia With Performance Science Institute At USC

When Pete Carroll took a year off from coaching and made a concerted effort to define his philosophy, a key component to that philosophy was the idea of helping people be the best they can be.

And because Carroll is a football coach, it can be easy to think of that as helping football players be the best players they can be, but for Carroll the goal has always been to help the entire person reach his potential, which in turn will lead to better results on the field.

With that in mind, the Seahawks coach is branching out from football and into academia. Along with Dr. Michael Gervais, a high performance psychologist who works closely with the Seahawks, and David Belasco, the director of USC’s Entrepreneur Program, Carroll is a co-creator of the new Performance Science Institute at USC. The program, which is part of USC’s Marshall School of Business, recently launched with a performance science minor, which includes a new science of high performance course that is already the second most in-demand elective in the Marshall School, Belasco said.

The idea behind the Performance Science Institute dates back to Carroll’s time coaching at USC when Belasco, as he put it, “stalked Pete to speak in my classroom.” Carroll’s talks in Belasco’s classes led to the creating of a class called Taking the Leap, and those two found a mutual interest in teaching mindset. What Belasco recognized in his early interactions with Carroll was that the coach’s methods went well beyond football applications.

“He expressed an interest in teaching this philosophy, so he, Michael Gervais jointly came up with a program to teach the science and best practice of high performance in any field,” Belasco said in a phone interview.

When Belasco sent an email to Carroll last fall outlining the ideas of the program, Carroll replied that he was “all in.” Long-term, the goal is a Performance Science Institute that can “Teach, train and publish on the science and best practices of high performance,” Belasco explained. “That includes grit, it includes resilience, it includes psychology, neuroscience, physiology, nutrition, recovery—a lot of the things he incorporates with the Seahawks and also in his (Win Forever) consulting practice with Michael, but it’s an academic approach to it with the practical side instilled through Michael, Pete and other experts."

Carroll and Gervais spoke to the Marshall School of Business last month, and Carroll also spoke at the school’s commencement a year earlier.

“We’re both kind of behind the idea of the class, so we’re really excited about it and it was really fun going in there with the students and all that,” Carroll said last week at the NFL annual meetings. “It’s something that we hope to maintain over a long time, a relationship with them and continue to support the program. It’s a cutting-edge minor, and to be associated with the Marshall Business School makes it an extraordinarily real thing. It’s a high-powered business school, and I know that from the dean on down, Dean (James) Ellis, all the way throughout, they are really pumped up about the class. Great attendance, great showing when we were there, we had a lot of fun.”

For Carroll, there is plenty of overlap when it comes to succeeding in football or in business or in any other walk of life, which is why he and Gervais worked with USC to create this program.

“The idea of the minor is to help introduce students to getting ready to compete when they leave school,” Carroll said. “Everything that has to do with getting prepared and helping them understand how they’re responsible for creating their own value as they move forward, giving them an idea of how to battle in everything from grit to mindfulness is really the idea of the course. It’s a really, really fun and exciting idea.”

Photos of Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll meeting with the media on Thursday, March 2 at the 2017 NFL Combine in Indianapolis, Indiana.

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