We arrived at Seattle Seahawks headquarters on Monday at 1:15—fifteen minutes early for my meeting with head coach Pete Carroll. It was a gorgeous day. If you’ve never experienced Seattle when it’s sunny and 70 degrees, it’s heaven on earth. What could possibly go wrong on such a perfect day?
Apparently, parenting—which is perfectly ironic considering the fact that we were at Seahawks HQ so that I could talk to Pete Carroll about parenting.
Here’s how it went down.
Coach had said that my family was welcome to join us, and that they could either sit in on the meeting or hang out outside his office. So the five of us arrived, got buzzed into the reception area, and were given our visitor name tags. We gawked at the Lombardi trophy, Super Bowl rings, and other awards displayed behind a large glass case in the lobby. Javad and I grinned at each other like giddy schoolchildren as we waited to be escorted upstairs to meet the coach.
And then, suddenly, our 6-year-old BoyWonder got shy. Like, social-anxiety-freaking-out kind of shy.
“I want to go outside,” he said.
“We can’t go outside, sweetie, we’re going to meet with Pete Carroll.”
“No, mommy. I want to go outside.”
“We can’t take you outside. They’re going to come and get us soon.”
“Mommy! Mommy! I can’t. I need to hide. I want to go outside!”
I could tell he was getting panicky, though he was trying to keep it together. On top of his own normal shyness, I’m sure he was empathetically channeling all of our excitement/nervousness. I tried my best to calmly talk him down.
“It’s okay, sweetie. No biggie. You don’t have to say anything. You can even hide behind Daddy’s legs if you need to.”
“Nooooo! I can’t! I can’t! I need to go outside!”
We tried everything. We had already explained what we were doing there and what to expect, but we did it again. We talked about how it was going to be fun and everyone was going to be really nice. We tried distracting him. I offered to hold him. I even tried bribing him with ice cream afterward if he could just pull it together long enough to meet the coach and take a few pictures.
Nope. It was either going to be Javad taking him outside or a total meltdown in the Seahawks headquarters lobby.
My Pete Carroll-inspired mantra about letting kids be themselves flashed through my mind. We had to honor where our kid was in that moment—overcoming shyness is an ongoing process, and forcing it wasn’t going to work.
Right then, Pete Carroll’s assistant, Ben Malcomson, came down to get us. Super sweet, mild-mannered young guy. We all introduced ourselves, with BoyWonder pulling Javad out the door. We explained the situation briefly, and Ben graciously offered to bring the girls back down during my meeting and come and get the boys later. We told him we weren’t sure if the boys were going to make it back in or not, but Javad and I would keep in touch by text.
Poor Javad. He’s a bigger Seahawks fan than I am. This was like a football pilgrimage for him, and it looked like he was going to miss it. To his credit, he held in his annoyance and didn’t make BoyWonder feel bad. It was obvious the poor kid just couldn’t handle his nerves. There really wasn’t anything to do but remove him from the situation and hope he could regroup.
So the girls and I got a brief tour of the training facility on our way up to the coach’s office, and I took photos for Javad to see later.
Then we arrived at Pete Carroll’s office. He came out and gave me a hug. He met the girls and introduced us to Kelly Creeden, Managing Director of Head Coach Initiatives/Seahawks Special Projects, who would be sitting in with us. We all went into his office (a corner office with a beautiful view of Lake Washington) and sat on his couch and chairs.
I won’t go into detail about our whole conversation, but the gist is that we tossed around ideas for coaching parents through developing their own philosophies and maximizing their potential as mothers, fathers, husbands, wives, etc. Too much to get in here, but you’ll definitely be seeing more in that vein from me soon.
But since I’m sure you all just want to know what it was like to sit and chat with Pete Carroll, here are my impressions:
The guy is the real deal. He walks his talk and lives his philosophy, but without any air of pretension or hype. I knew this going in, as I got a sense of what he was all about when he took the time to call a mom blogger the day before a big playoff game to talk philosophy. And I’ve read his book now twice. But being there on his turf, interacting with the people he works with, talking with him face to face—it solidified it for me. He’s genuine and sincere.
He’s also extraordinarily approachable. I knew that, too, in theory, but it’s hard to get a feel for someone until you spend some time face to face. He comes across as a normal guy, but at the same time, not really. He’s like an awesome version of normal. He’s not superhuman, but he has things figured out, which is almost the same thing. He has every excuse to have an inflated ego, but all he exudes is simple, unassuming confidence. His energy and positivity are infectious without being overbearing. I don’t know how anyone couldn’t want to be a part of whatever he’s got going on.
At one point during our conversation we were talking about making unconventional choices that not everyone agrees with. He laughed and said he’s given up trying to be understood. Apparently not everyone gets him. I’m not sure what so hard to understand. This is a man who knows what he’s about and communicates it consistently. And that goes far beyond football. He wants to help everyone within his reach be the best that they can be. He’s all about maximizing potential in every area of life, doing it positively, and doing it forever.
It’s a little surreal when I step back and look at our meeting from the outside—here’s this renowned NFL football coach sitting across from me, totally engaged, talking about ways to help parents become better parents. He is constantly coaching; it’s who he his and what he does. We tossed around ideas for coaching parents through his philosophical framework, which is what I went there hoping to do. In his Pete Carroll way, he gave me what I needed to move forward on some ideas I’ve been stewing on for months but hadn’t been able to solidify. He encouraged me to write from my heart. He said they would help me in whatever way they could and told me to contact him or Kelly if I had questions about anything or needed to talk through more ideas.
We were scheduled to meet for 30 minutes, but we ended up chatting a little longer. Javad texted me that he and BoyWonder were down in the lobby, and Coach sent an assistant to go fetch them. While we were waiting, he brought out a 12th Man flag personalized for our family.
The boys arrived, so Javad got to meet him. I was so happy. BoyWonder pulled a full-on Marshawn Lynch, not saying a word, but he didn’t freak out and he even waved at Coach Carroll. We took photos. It was awesome.
Then it was time for Coach to go to a meeting . But instead of sending us on our way, he called me over and brought me into a room filled with coaches, assistant coaches, and what I can only guess must be assistant assistant coaches. Close to twenty people, from my best guess. He introduced me to the room. Everyone said hello, and then he sent us on our way.
That simple little introduction really tickled me. He went out of his way to make me feel like a part of the team. That’s Pete Carroll for you.
Kelly walked us out, and gave us the same tour of the facilities that Ben had given the girls and me. So Javad got to have the experience I’d hoped for him, which I was so grateful for. We even got to say hi to a couple of players (Greg Scruggs and a rookie player, Obum Gwachum) who were doing some training in the indoor field.
All in all, it was a better experience than I had even anticipated.
And as much as the parenting challenge upon our arrival sucked at the time, taking BoyWonder outside and giving him the time he needed to work out his nerves turned out to be the for the best. I don’t think he would have sat through the meeting with Pete Carroll like the girls did, and that would have been too big of a distraction for me. And he was calmed and ready by the time he got to meet the coach. (Plus, Doug Baldwin walked by while Javad and BoyWonder were in the lobby, so it all worked out.)
We walked back out into the gorgeous Seattle sunshine, Javad and I grinning—again—like schoolchildren.
It was a winning day all around.