12th Man Mom: How the Seahawks are Making Me a Better Parent

As long-time Seattle Seahawks fans, these past two football seasons have been a whole lot of fun for our family. With winning the Superbowl last year and clinching first seed in the playoffs winning the NFC championship this year, the Seahawks are definitely having their day.

But my interest in the current team goes beyond the Legion of Boom, Beast Mode, and Russell Wilson’s studliness. The more I read about them, the more I see head coach Pete Carroll and the Seahawks as a fascinating case study in family dynamics. Here’s this group of guys with vastly different personalities and strengths, and a coach who has managed to bring out the best in all of them, both individually and collectively. That’s no small feat.

And on a fundamental level, that’s the same thing we’re trying to do with our kids, isn’t it? Help them reach their individual potentials while working together towards our family’s goals?

So here are ten bits of wisdom I’m swiping from the Seahawks to add to my parenting playbook:

1. Have a Clear Philosophy

Pete Carroll’s “Win Forever” pyramid is impressive and obviously effective, but it’s really not rocket science. He simply married his philosophies of the game with his philosophies on life, created a clear vision of what his team is about, and reminds them of it on a daily basis.

Our kids benefit from having a clear vision of what we’re about, too. What are the central, defining characteristics of our family? What do we value most as a unit? What are our ultimate goals? Do we articulate those things daily for our kids? If not, maybe we should.

2. “Build Confidence. Gain Trust.”

I love that Pete Carroll ties confidence to trust and makes them (almost) the ultimate goal of his program. Players perform when they know they can achieve excellence and when they know their coach will do whatever he can to help them get there. Pete Carroll is the Seahawks’ biggest fan and their loudest cheerleader. Players give their best because it’s expected, but also because they are inspired.

Kids really aren’t any different, are they? Sure, you can push kids with tough love and motivate them with fear and shame. That’s how some NFL coaches get results from their teams, too. But I prefer Pete Carroll’s positive approach, which clearly works and is much more pleasant for all involved. I want my kids to have no doubt that I believe in them, to know that I always have their best interest at heart, and to trust in my leadership.

3. “No Whining, No Complaining, No Excuses.”

Pure gold. Simple. Straight forward. No nonsense. No caveats.

I think I might engrave this on our living room wall.

4. “Everything Counts”

The Seahawks practice hard and live the mantra, “Every game is a championship game.” Every practice, every interaction, every game counts. Enthusiasm, effort, toughness, and playing smart all count toward the ultimate goal.

Everything counts with our kids, too. Kids remember when we’ve brushed them off, even if it doesn’t feel like a big deal to us. Kids know when we’re making a real effort or when we’re phoning it in. Our relationships with our children are made up of hundreds of thousands of interactions. Not all of them have to be perfect or ideal, of course, but it’s important to remember that they all count.

That’s also an important lesson for our children—that everything they choose to do with their time or energy helps define who they are. And how they approach what they’re doing counts, too. Everything counts. Take nothing for granted, and leave nothing that you have control over to chance.

5. Make Room for Silliness

When you’re doing serious work, it’s easy to take yourself entirely too seriously. I know I sometimes take myself too seriously as a parent. The job is important and the stakes are high.

But being serious about doing your job well doesn’t mean you have to be serious all the time. Pete Carroll regularly plays elaborate pranks on his players and fellow coaches. With all of the energy and time it takes to build a winning team, I think it’s awesome that he still makes time for silliness.

And indeed, one of the best parenting tools I’ve found is playfulness. Laughter, jokes, silliness—none of those things get in the way of the serious work of raising responsible children and adults. In fact, keeping the tone of the team—or the household—light and fun makes leadership both more effective and more enjoyable.

6. Take Joy in Triumph

I love watching Pete Carroll when the Seahawks score. The dude is no spring chicken, but he sure has the energy of one. As I said, he’s his players’ biggest cheerleader, and his excitement on the sidelines is infectious.

When I was a kid, my dad used to to yell out in this big, booming voice, “THAT’S MY DAUGHTER!” at all of my school performances/games/graduations. He did the same for my siblings. It was horribly embarrassing, but at the same time, we knew he was proud of us. Showing our kids that we take joy in their triumph is important.

7. Let Them Be Themselves

As with any team (or family), the Seahawks is made up of a range of personalities. Let’s just take a sampling of three:

  • Russell Wilson—the talented, clean-cut Boy Next Door who would impress even the fiercest future father-in-law with his genuine “good guy”ness.
  • Richard Sherman—the delightfully cocky Stanford honors graduate who loves the limelight and will confidently talk to anyone.
  • Marshawn “Beast Mode” Lynch—the tough, quiet kid from Oakland who performs seriously superhuman feats on the field but has faced fines for refusing to talk to the media.

In a family context, Russell Wilson is the easy kid that everyone loves. Richard Sherman is the kid who is smart and funny, but can rub some people the wrong way. Like him or not, you don’t worry about him because he can take care of himself. And Marshawn Lynch is the misunderstood kid who comes across as rude for not speaking when spoken to.

I have a soft spot for Marshawn Lynch because I have a couple of kids of my own who have a hard time saying a simple “Hi” when someone says hello to them. I know their shyness gets mistaken for rudeness. My guess is that Lynch’s scripted “Yeah,” and “Thanks for asking,” responses aren’t so much arrogance as a cover-up for intense discomfort. Or maybe he really just doesn’t have anything to say. Either way, let the man be.

Pete Carroll doesn’t try to change who his players are. When Lynch responds to journalists with one-word answers and barely puts in the minimum face time with the media, Carroll just shrugs and says Lynch is a quiet guy, even in the locker room. He doesn’t try to make him talk.

And the same goes for the opposite end of the spectrum. When Richard Sherman went off on his smack-talking tirade after a big play last season, Pete Carroll had this to say:

“We aren’t perfect and we all make mistakes. Things don’t always come out exactly as we planned.

“You’re talking about a guy in a warrior’s mentality in the middle of everything. He’s a fiery guy. That was Richard being Richard in a moment where you would like to pull him to the side and take a knee for a while, then we’ll talk to you.

“It’s unfortunate that it was so crazed, but that’s who he is. His mental make-up to get ready for that matchup was expressed right there so he could play the way he can play. Unfortunately, sharing with the world, it didn’t come across so well.

“We try to stick to Rule No. 1, which is always protect the team,” he said. “It’s the rule we live by. You always represent us. In a time like that one, it was a little bit representing yourself. How we handle it is we try to grow and learn and work our way through who we are and figure out who we want to be. This was an extraordinary learning opportunity. You’ll see some benefit from it…

“When you really love somebody and care for them, you do everything you can help them be everything they can be,” Carroll continued. “At times they are going to make mistakes and break your heart, but if you love them you stay with them. You give [them] the best chance to be all they can be.

“Richard is a wonderful spirit. He’s got an amazing heart and he has great sensitivity. He goes all the way to the end of the spectrum when it comes to expressing himself.”

See what Pete Carroll did there? He honored who Richard Sherman is, while gently pointing out that, yes, it could have been done differently. And he saw the whole thing as a learning opportunity. Dang, that’s inspiring.

Let your kids be themselves. Honor their unique characteristics and help them hone their strengths. Don’t try to force them into a mold that doesn’t fit them. Find the learning opportunities in mistakes, but let things go that really don’t matter in the larger scheme of things.

(That being said, if my kid ever grabs his crotch in public as an adult, we will have words.)

8. Take the Long View, but Focus on “Now.”

Pete Carroll’s “Win Forever” philosophy is based on the notion of long-term success. The word “forever” might seem a bit extreme here, but not when you see it as a philosophy of living rather than a method of winning.

In essence, you have to strive consistently toward excellence to achieve excellence consistently. Pretty simple, really.

With parenting, our ultimate goals are long-term. We’re raising adults to reach their individual potentials and contribute to humanity’s collective development. That doesn’t happen overnight, but rather in a succession of overnights.

As Pete Carroll says, “To accomplish the grand, you have to focus on the small.” Again, everything counts toward the ultimate goal.

9. Relentless Positivity

One of the most remarkable aspects of Pete Carroll’s coaching is that he makes pure positivity work at the professional level. When so many NFL coaches have taken the stoic, grumbling, hard-nosed, Belichik approach—and not without success—Pete Carroll comes dancing in with this cool, relentlessly positive methodology that on paper can seem downright silly. And a lot more people would probably see it as silly, if the Seahawks hadn’t totally dominated the past two seasons under Carroll’s coaching. Clearly, the relentlessly positive approach works.

Seahawks coaches rarely yell or swear and are told not to tear players down. When they lose, they don’t dwell on it—they just look ahead to the next game. There is no fear, only confidence and trust and a deep belief that they will win.

How much better do our children do in an atmosphere of positivity? How much more relaxed and confident in their abilities are they when we refrain from criticism? Such a hard thing to do, but watching Pete Carroll’s positive energy pouring over into his team makes me want to try harder in that arena.

10. “Winning” is the Means AND the End.

Success as a parent is as much in the journey as it is in the destination. And in a philosophical sense, it’s the same in sports. Pete Carroll sums up that notion nicely in describing what “win forever” really means:

“Of course we want to win every game, but winning forever is more about realizing your potential and making yourself as good as you can be. Realizing that is a tremendous accomplishment, whether it’s in football or in life.”


Obviously, coaching a football team is not directly comparable to parenting our children. Raising kids isn’t a competition, for one. We can’t choose our kids the way a coach can choose players, and I’m not sure we’d want to.

But our job as parents is to help our kids, no matter who they are, reach their unique potential. If Pete Carroll can do that with a football team, I can do it with my kids, goshdarnit.

Unless, of course, Carroll’s philosophy is all hogwash and the real secret to success lies in compulsive gum chewing.

Maybe we should all add Bubble Yum to our parenting tool belts, too. Just in case.


Follow-up post: Pete Carroll actually read this post about his coaching philosophy influencing my parenting and called me to talk about it! Read the story here

 If you enjoyed this post, please pass it along. You can follow Motherhood and More on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram.

Annie writes about life, motherhood, world issues, beautiful places, and anything else that tickles her brain. On good days, she enjoys juggling life with her husband and homeschooling her children. On bad days, she binges on chocolate chips and dreams of traveling the world alone.

Comments 56

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  2. I stumbled across your article on Facebook as a Seahawks fan. I am a Patrol Supervisor for a rural Sheriff’s Office in Washington. I was so impressed with the leadership tenets you described so well that I have adopted them for my philosophies in leading my crew on the street. Thanks to you and Pete Carroll for the leadership mentoring!!!!

  3. Annie… Ever since the WIN that the Seahawks pulled out over the Packers in the NFC Championship game, I’ve been searching for some perspective on Coach Pete Carroll’s coaching style and this nailed it! What I saw on that field was the belief that they could pull out a WIN against the odds! ‘Coaching’ that into anyone’s philosophy is daunting, but your ‘playbook’ breaks it down into actions that are attainable.

    As a mother of two boys, this perspective is right in line with how my husband and I want to ‘coach’ our sons to be better human beings. As a business woman and leader, this also brings perspective on how to ‘coach’ and lead those who look to me for business guidance!

    No more ‘hail marys’! Thanks for the ‘playbook’! Go HAWKS!

    1. Thank you Annie, so well said. One thought I had about the team on Sunday was that the offense really has “married’ the defense. They are one and when one side needed help the other was there to make up the difference and help the win. Seahawk win is just what we need right now — something positive to focus on and a ‘win’ that didn’t appear possible earlier in the game, hope, hard work and the future… just what we wish for our families. Thank you again for sharing your thoughts!!
      Terry — Seattle mom and RN

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      Love this comment, Karen! His coaching style and philosophy are truly inspiring. If you haven’t checked out his book, “Win Forever,” I highly recommend it. I just finished it this weekend. Amazing stuff!

  4. Wow. Just wow.
    You raise your family based on Pete Carroll’s values?
    You must not follow football.
    At USC, Carroll’s program was nailed for NCAA violations: aka CHEATING. Paying players. Do you know how your idol handled the punishment???? He left USC before the punishment took place and went for the big bucks in the NFL. Is that what you are teaching your kids? Do the crime…..but leave and let other people do the time???? Carroll left USC in shambles, and let the next coach suffer the punishment for the crimes Carroll’s program committed. Class act right there.
    Pete also used his position as coach to help HIS personal agent further his career. Pete banned player agents from attending USC events. “For the good of the kids”………lol, except, oddly enough, ONE agency was given FREE ACCESS to every kid on the USC roster. One agency – free access, every other agency in the world – no access. Can you guess which agency got free access? Pete’s personal agent. Is that how you want your kids to operate if they own a business later in life? Now you aren’t allowed to do that, by the way. Because of guy’s like Pete they had to put a rule in.
    How has Pete done in the NFL?
    Care to take a guess which team has had the MOST players suspended for illegal substance abuse over the last three years???? I’ll give you a guess who their coach is. Your idol. Hey, cheating helped win at college, why not do it in the NFL as well? Great lesson for you to teach your kids.
    Did you see Sherman’s rant on the sideline last year after the 49er game? Did you see Golden Tate blindside a Cowboy, injuring him enough to end his season and what did Tate do after hitting – blindsiding – a defender? He danced around and threw his muscle pose up to show what a “strong” guy he was. Really classy players. Did they get suspended by Carroll? LOL – of course not.
    Have you watched how the Seahawks defensive players dance around after every tackle they make? They dance and jump around like they just made a game-winning play. Did you see last week when Thomas made the INT that was later reversed against Carolina? He went to midfield, fell to his knees and threw his arms up in the air like he was Jesus and people needed to bow down and worship him. This is on an interception in the 2nd quarter of a game the Hawks were 11 point favorites – that was ruled to NOT be an interception.
    THAT IS THE WAY CARROLL WANTS HIS PLAYERS TO PLAY. Showboating to the max. Watch the game this week against Green Bay. Watch how the GB players act after making a first quarter tackle. Then watch how Seattle players act. One will jump up and go back to the huddle. The others will dance around and showboat. In the first quarter. On every tackle. Is this how you want your kids to behave when they play pee wee sports???
    Pete Carroll has been cheating and stretching the rules for his entire coaching career. The fact you’d use him as a blue-print for raising your family is disturbing.

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      Hi Roscoe,

      I could get into a whole big discussion about the ubiquitousness of rewarding college athletes and NCAA corruption in general, the fact that breaking NCAA rules (which is done by the vast majority of college athletic programs from everything I’ve read) is not the same as cheating on the field, the impossible-to-prove speculation about the timing of Pete Carroll’s leaving USC, the role of the dozens of other people involved in the goings-on in college athletics, the human tendency to focus on bringing down those on top, the fact that coaches don’t hand their players PED’s, the way the media can twist the truth, the silliness of expecting football players to have perfectly refined behavior during peak moments in a violent and intensely competitive sport, or the bitterness of Packers fans.

      But I won’t. Because this post isn’t about any of those things. It’s about how Pete Carroll coaches his players to strive for excellence, how you can apply those specific methods to parenting, and nothing more. I never said the man was perfect, but his well-honed philosophy impresses me, how he treats his players impresses me, how he handles losses in the locker room impresses me, and his ability to remain positive impresses me. Oh yeah, and the fact that he can coach a team that continually competes at the championship level. Positive coaching leads to successful playing, and parents can apply those same philosophies and methods in their families. That’s all this post was about.

      Are you looking forward to the game Sunday? I know I am. 🙂

  5. Annie, nicely written and at the same time explained lot of valuable things in more simple way. I’m a father of 6yr old kid and i do believe in the same philosophy as you. Love, Values, Responsible and Caring.

    God bless you and your family.

    Go Hawks!!!

  6. I’m not a parent but after reading this post, I would distribute it to every manager of an organization who wants to foster a culture that is inclusive and transparent. In addition to good parenting advice, this post is what some managers need to understand in working with and building up their employees. So Annie, you actually have done a lot of people a favor by writing this gem. And I do hope that it becomes a book.

    1. Spot on. Also not a parent, but I am a manager – and I read this entire article with that mindset, even jotting a few notes. It’s an inspiring style of leadership, personal or professional.

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  7. I read your column for the first time and enjoyed your mommy moment regarding Pete Carroll. I would hope you also give space for those moms who raised kids there will never be a Richard Sherman and struggle everyday just to make it. for us, our children will never be stars on the NFL but they’re definitely stars in Heaven’s crown; not because of their being heroes to the world. butbrcsude they are heros yhst matter. Why? because of how wonderful they are and how hard they work just to be even with the rest…on those occasions that they can be. Being a mom of children with special needs ( and I hate that term); all children have needs and all of their needs are special . it us just that some are more special than others; or challenging or more expensive to raise. We shed buckets of tears wishing others would see the beauty we see and the effort out kids put out. Having said that I can’t think of anyone else’s kids that I would rather have then my children. I was given an amazing gift when they entered our lives. Please give these momd and their kids equal coverage for their journey is hard, there are no easy steps, few people hang around and rveryonr id an expert on raising your kids and enjoy telling you how as they lesve for easier friends to have. These moms are the best. They win the Super Bowl every day wuth very little congrsts, hi-5’s, or cudos. They are the real champs. thank you

  8. Annie,
    Thank you!!!
    I’m relatively new to being a sports fan, (I deny the “fair weather”) and stumbled on this post. My wife and I are in the midst of raising teenage triplets and feel this message is a timely gift, from you and Coach, to me today. I try so hard everyday and do alright but I am tapped on the heart to work harder (and more lightheartedly) at it to earn the trust of my kids AND the character of people such as Coach Carrol and yourself.
    I can usually be stoic and “in command” of myself but I was so touched and inspired I brushed tears away for the entire read.
    Thanks for YOUR effort,

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      I just love your comment, Paul. I’m glad I could pass the inspiration along. I really have gained a lot of parenting insights from learning more about the “Win Forever” philosophy, and I hope others find wisdom in it as well.

  9. Fantastic post! I couldn’t agree more! Pete Carroll has been such a great coach for us. I love number 7. I love that he uses the players strengths and he doesn’t try to make them be someone else. Lynch is one of my favorites! My daughter doesn’t like speaking sometimes either because she’s shy. I’m not going to make her talk if she’s uncomfortable. People need to lighten up! Anyhow, love this! And congratulations on the phone call! Wow-so awesome! Go Hawks!!

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    1. It always goes back to the teacher! It would be much better if everyone worked together as a team; parents, teachers, administrators, and the government. We don’t put blame on just the coaches.

  10. Just saw your interview about Pete. Great job on the blog and the interview. Raised my son with some of the same ideas, and he is now ready to graduate law school at the top of his class. I really like the idea of a parenting book based upon the rules you enumerate. A big part of the parenting task is to buy in ourselves to the ideas and live them as well. I will be looking forward to your next post on the issue and the book!! Go hawks!!!

  11. Great piece of writing and logic. I’m heading out to watch my granddaughter play basketball this morning, getting up at an unGodly hour to do it. But kids DO remember and I want little Lindsey Kate to remember that Grandpa showed up for her game, not the excuse he made. If you boil down Pete Carroll’s philosophy, you get a wonderful, almost intoxicating distillate: “Do Unto Others As You Would Have Then Do Unto You”. Pete – and you – playing the Universe’s Greatest Hits and doing it very well.

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    1. Annie, congrats on the call from the amazing coach himself. Just saw the story on King5. So inspired by your blog. When Coach Carroll came to speak to our organization (at Microsoft), his same philosophies applied perfectly to the professional work team and we are trying to implement his strategies in the office as well. Write the book! You’ve got a 12th man in Coach Carroll already and I’m sure you’ll experience more success moving forward with your writing. Thank you Annie!

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        Thanks, Anne! Coach Carroll mentioned that they’ve worked with Microsoft and other big corporations to bring this philosophy beyond the sports world. I think that’s awesome, and I’m sure it was incredibly inspiring! I do hope I can help them spread it out to families as well. I don’t see how anything but good could come from it. 🙂

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  12. I enjoyed your article immensely and to now realize how unique Pete Carroll is, just reinforces my respect for this one of a kind human being. We are so lucky to have him Needless to say, our Seahawks are the pride and joy of Washington State. They are winners all the way around!
    Go Hawks….

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      Seriously, Darlene – When I spoke with him on the phone, I was blown away by how sincere and genuine he was, and I felt so inspired, just by our short conversation. He truly is a unique coach and human being.

  13. wow, i love pete carroll, love the Seahawks and i love the parallels you’ve drawn; it’s exactly what i connected Pete’s philosophy to when I read his book! You did a brilliant job laying it out and I’ll be returning to re read as a reminder!!
    Go Hawks!

  14. Annie, I really enjoyed your perspective on Pete’s philosophy and how it makes sense for a family too. I’ve been studying how his methods capture many of the best principles of management theory, but had not considered as you did the value of these principles in the family. Really liked this! Thanks for posting it! And… Go Hawks!

  15. I’m not a parent but come from a family of 9 and blessed with lots of nephews, nieces, great-nephews and nieces. Awesome write up…especially #3, #5, and #9. GO HAWKS!

  16. Go Hawks and let your freak flag fly! This is a fabulous article for parents so please take the time to read it it’s not a short one but the 10 reasons why the Seahawks are so good is terrific and works out to be exactly how you should raise your children so enjoy it read it and learn something and U2 can let your freak flag fly by now.

  17. Well stated. A great comparison and a good read. Like to see more teachers take the same WINFOREVER philosophy. Go HAWKS!

  18. Awsome, i have allways liked pete carroll, and how he manages his team, thank you for putting it into an aspect of parenting, i am going to try real hard to make my family like the team, even when my son is excited about winning a foootball game on a video game.

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  19. The Seahawks are successful and having fun doing it,
    Thank you for writing!
    I was inspired by the little things mean a lot.
    As a working mom, my time with my kids is limited, evenings are busy, but I was reminded to put some things aside and spend more time.
    Thank you!
    And go Hawks!

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  20. This is just a wonderful reminder that good people come in all personality types and backgrounds…..plus I miss watching the Seahawks play so it made me a little homesick.

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