Nebraska Volleyball Makes Best of Pandemic Break

April 15, 2020, 6:49 a.m. ·

Nebraska Head Volleyball Coach John Cook (Courtesy NET Sports)

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The Coronavirus pandemic has paused all sporting events across the country. That includes practices during an important time in development for college volleyball teams. Nebraska head volleyball coach John Cook looks at how the pandemic is changing how his team is preparing for a season that is still in question.

Nebraska volleyball head coach John Cook was looking for a fast start this spring, after losing in the regional finals of the NCAA tournament last season. Then, In March, the Big Ten banned all team meetings, practices and organized activities until at least early May because of coronavirus concerns. Cook said this is a time when the team would normally be meeting for practices, eating team meals together and studying film.

“So trying to replace as pretty much that (lost time) impossible but at least we want to try to make a dent in that and keep them connected because we are still a team and that's an important part of being a team,” Cook said.

Though the NCAA has suspended all team workouts and in-person meetings, that doesn’t mean they can’t meet through video conferencing. Cook has assigned his players an accountability partner they meet with daily. The players also meet on Zoom as a team on their own. With the lost time, Cook said it’s important to have a plan in place through this.

“We gave them a match to watch themselves with 10 questions they had to answer,” Cook said. “We do Zoom calls with them every other day. In those Zoom calls, we're typically watching or discussing something. So for example, we did a video about Rafael Nadal the tennis player and how he trains.”

Cook wants his players to understand what Nadal does to be great every day and look at themselves to get better. The Zoom meetings aren’t all about serious business, they’re also about coming together as a team during an unusual time. Cook is even planning an online team baking session.

“They're all going to have their packets of the ingredients to make bread,” Cook said. “I asked them how many of them ever made their own bread and only three out of the 11 had made their own bread. So we're just trying to be really creative and keep them connected. I think they're starving for connection.”

The Huskers, who finished with an overall record of 28-5 last season, have reached the Elite 8 for eight straight seasons, something no other program in the country has done. If it weren’t for the coronavirus pandemic, the Husker volleyball team would already be preparing to extend that streak. Cook said it’s out of the team’s control and he wants his players to stay positive.

“Just worry about winning today,” Cook said. “Don't worry about tomorrow right now, because we have so little control and we really have no idea. So just focus on today. Rise and grind.”

Cook said when the team can get back to work on the court is out of their control. But working hard every day studying film and staying connected is something that will help both in the short and long term.

“So that's the mindset we're trying to instill in them and whatever we get or get, we know it will happen at some point and it could be next spring.”

The future for the team is still unclear. The best case scenario is they could be practicing as early as the first week of May. Cook said there are five tentative plans with differing times the 2020 season could start. One is pushing it back to spring of 2021.

“I think we're going to be pretty tied to football,” Cook said. “So whatever football is doing is probably what volleyball is going to do because we're similar sports. A lot of people come and watch (both sports) and we're on the same calendar.”

No matter when the team is allowed to practice, Cook said Husker Volleyball is focusing on what they can control: staying positive and sticking together.