University of Southern California

Pete Carroll on Creating a Winning Mindset
Super Bowl Champion and USC National Championship Coach Shares Leadership Approach
March 5, 2014 • by News at Marshall

Pete Carroll, head coach of the Super Bowl champs Seattle Seahawks and two-time USC National Championship coach, returned to campus on Wednesday, Feb. 26, to share his performance philosophy, honed from years of working with high-achieving athletes. During a conversation with David Belasco, co-director of USC Marshall's Lloyd Greif Center for Entrepreneurial Studies, Carroll outlined how he developed a winning approach to coaching that is applicable to success both on and off the playing field.

The event, which drew a capacity crowd of 1,200 students and faculty to Bovard Auditorium, focused on tenets encapsulated in the coach's best-selling book and leadership program of the same name, "Win Forever."

"Our mission at the Lloyd Greif center is to train tomorrow's entrepreneurs and leaders so they have the skill-set and mindset to launch businesses that impact the world," said Belasco. "Pete is not only a coach but also a teacher and a modern-day philosopher. He invests and believes in people and will push you in every way to become your best."

Carroll’s "Win Forever" program is designed to apply the development of a competitive mindset—a disposition cultivated by Carroll and his colleague, sports psychologist Dr. Michael Gervais through years of contact with high-achieving athletes, coaches and team environments—to a business leadership setting.

Carroll's approach was hard-won. He recounted being fired as head coach from sports organizations including the New York Jets and New England Patriots before coming to USC to turn around the football program. During his tenure at USC from 2001 to 2009, he won seven consecutive Pac-10 titles and two national championships, and led the Trojans to a 97-17 record.

It was during a hiatus before coming to USC that Carroll honed his leadership philosophy after spending time reflecting and recording what was important to him in a notebook—a practice he urged students to follow.

"There's a tremendous power in vision. For these years at college, if you clearly define what that is—as soon as you make that declaration—it's already on its way to happening. Staying in connection with that vision and competing to stay on track is very difficult, but guarantees that you are going accomplish what you want to accomplish," said Carroll.

One of the core principles he identified in himself was competitiveness and the desire to bring out the best in those around him.

"It's always about figuring out what they could possibly be. To have a greater vision of what that could look like," said Carroll. "The vision doesn't just apply to one person. You can apply it to a whole team."

The approach he took to coaching athletes to reach their full potential can also be applied to budding entrepreneurs looking to create successful enterprises, he said.

"Many of you will go on and be in charge of businesses; you can design the culture of the workplace. You can create the vision of how you want it to be and put together an environment that fosters success and achievement and accomplishment and support and empowerment, he said.

The evening's program also included an appearance from current USC football coach Steve Sarkisian, who served under Carroll for the Trojans and USC alum, the USC Trojan marching band and personal friend, actor and comedian Will Ferrell, who injected humor into the presentation to underscore the less-serious tactics Carroll uses to motivate his players and colleagues.

Earlier in the month, Carroll brought his leadership program to a select group of second-year MBAs as extension of Professor Priester's “Fostering Creativity” class. The full-day seminar, led by his daughter Jaime Davern and Seahawks team psychologist Gervais, was the first time the program—also implemented in a department at Microsoft—was offered in a university setting.


About the USC Marshall School of Business
Consistently ranked among the nation's premier schools, USC Marshall is internationally recognized for its emphasis on entrepreneurship and innovation, social responsibility and path-breaking research. Located in the heart of Los Angeles, one of the world's leading business centers and the U.S. gateway to the Pacific Rim, Marshall offers its 5,700-plus undergraduate and graduate students a unique world view and impressive global experiential opportunities. With an alumni community spanning 123 countries, USC Marshall students join a worldwide community of thought leaders who are redefining the way business works.