Friday the 13th, a full moon and a Nebraska-Stanford volleyball matchup all within a few days calls for a strange Lo-Down this week. We are going to focus on superstitions, Coach John Cook’s superstitions to be exact. He is one of the most superstitious people I have ever met, and I will give you a few examples that prove how superstitious he really is, especially on game days.
1. The Stretching
The Huskers almost always have a serve-and-pass practice, usually about 5 hours before a match begins. Unless the match start time is set for 11 a.m. or 12 p.m., the serve and pass practice will happen. At the beginning of this no-jump practice, Coach Cook always starts off by leading the team through a stretch. He goes through the same stretches in the same order and everyone is always in the same spot. It doesn’t matter if they are at home or on the road, this format doesn’t change.
2. The Shoes
While getting ready before the match, Coach Cook has to put his shoes on the same way each time. He starts by putting on the left shoe and then puts on the right shoe. He finishes by always tying the left shoe first and then the right shoe last. Before he received his hip replacement last December, he had a hard time with his shoes. So, I am happy to report that he now is able to put on and tie his shoes all by himself and with ease. For a while there it was a struggle and he needed someone to help him, so thank goodness for hip replacements!
3. The Breathing
Four-by-four breathing is a Navy SEAL term. If you know Coach Cook, you know he is obsessed with the SEALs. This consists of four counts breathing in, holding that same breath in for four counts and then blowing that air out for four counts. He finds a quiet place and does this right before he steps onto the court for warmups. He says it calms his nerves and helps put his worrisome thoughts about the upcoming match at ease.
4. The Water
Coach Cook always has two bottles of water with him right before the game. The water has to be Aquafina brand and he leaves one bottle in the locker room and takes the other bottle onto the court. The lucky bottle that makes it onto the court is usually placed near or underneath his seat on the bench. He definitely drinks the bottle that he brings on the bench, however, I don’t know if he always finishes the bottle that is left in the locker room. He is only there for a pre- and post-game talk with the players, so depending on how thirsty he is dictates if he drinks that.
With all of the success Coach Cook has had, I think he has these superstitions for a reason. I am going to credit his pregame habits and routines in playing a part in all of the matches they have won. It would be an interesting experiment to try getting him out of those pregame rituals before a match to see what happens. The Huskers would probably still win, but I doubt Coach Cook would ever be willing to test that out. He is way too competitive, and has turned these superstitious behaviors into habits that will be utilized for as long as he coaches.
He believes he needs all the luck he can get! Let’s just hope a black cat doesn’t run out in front of him anytime soon.
Lauren joined Hail Varsity in 2017 as a contributing writer covering Nebraska Volleyball. Lauren played volleyball at UCLA in 2009 and then finished her collegiate volleyball career at the University of Nebraska from 2010-2012. After college, she played professional volleyball in Switzerland and Puerto Rico before making her way back to Lincoln. Lauren considers herself a wine connoisseur and a major “foodie” and she also loves to travel the world. Lauren and her husband, Jason, married in 2018.