Mindfulness: The Seattle Seahawk's Sports Psychologist Shares Why It Matters

03/05/2014 03:14 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

The Seattle Seahawks have only been to the Superbowl once (v. Pittsburg Steelers, 2006), and they've never won -- until this year, when they walked away from MetLife Stadium holding up one of the most resounding victories (43-8) in the history of the competition.

A lot of factors were in play to help the Seahawks deliver a crushing defeat to the Broncos. Coach Pete Carroll has been working since 2010 to almost completely overhaul the club, including a 200-man roster change in his first season. The Seahawks have been loading up on defense depth and nurturing young talent. They're rumored to be the envy of the league for actually having fun at practice. They're working with Carroll's old-school football philosophy, based on a power running game with press coverage.

(Michael Gervais (right) at Wisdom 2.0)
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And, in what may in fact have been Carroll's best secret weapon, in 2012, the Seahawks hired a mindfulness coach -- high-performance sports psychologist Michael Gervais. The players practice yoga and mindfulness meditation regularly.

The benefits of mindfulness practice as applied to sports are almost blindingly obvious. Focus, awareness, clarity of thought, and the ability to stay in the present moment are basic skills for any great athlete -- and meditator. We caught up with Gervais recently after the Super Bowl Win to ask him about the impact of this work.

"At the center of high performance is presence, awareness, and trust," said Gervais, psychologist, author, and founder of Pinnacle Performance Center. "Awareness allows us to guide our minds, relentlessly toward an ideal mindset."

He praised Pete Carroll, a longtime mindfulness practitioner himself, for his work in creating the right kind of environment that fostered this year's Superbowl-dominating team. "Coach Carroll spends an incredible amount of time creating an environment that supports mindfulness and awareness. He brings a blend of old-school values, a rich understanding of human nature, and uses the applied science of psychology to celebrate players striving to be their best."

In an August 2013 ESPN article, Seahawks left tackle Russell Okung said, "Meditation is as important as lifting weights and being out here on the field for practice... It's about quieting your mind and getting into certain states where everything outside of you doesn't matter in that moment. There are so many things telling you that you can't do something, but you take those thoughts captive, take power over them and change them."

Given the outcome of February 2 practices spread rapidly across professional sports in the coming year's game, it won't be surprising to see meditation and yoga a part of more sports.

Michael Gervais spoke at Wisdom 2.0 last week. Stay tuned for the video and full story. www.widom2summit.com