I know I promised a series, which would have concluded this week with how passing has evolved, but, I figured with Thanksgiving happening in just two days, it might be nice to highlight what this week looks like for the Nebraska volleyball family and for the Cook family. And since I have experienced both, I thought I might share some of the traditions.
It seems as though Husker volleyball has lucked out over the past few years and they always happen to play at home the week of Thanksgiving. Sometimes there are matches Wednesday and Saturday that week and other times it turns out to be Friday and Saturday, which is what we are seeing this year. Since the Huskers either have a game the day before or the day after, most of their families do travel into town. However, if there are any players or staff members who do not have family coming into town or who do not have a place to go on Thanksgiving, they are always welcome at the Cook house.
Wendy, my amazing mother who we have talked about in a previous Lo-Down, spends the entire week preparing for the big day. She makes everything herself from the turkey, to the pies, all the way to the sides. She is one of the best cooks around. Sometimes she is cooking for more than 20 people and other times she is just preparing a meal for the four of us, John, herself, my brother, Taylor, and me. Now, for the players and staff who do have family here, they usually just prepare something in their apartments or go out to eat. Sometimes, multiple players will even get together with each other’s family members to make the holiday feel a little more like they are at home.
We all know Coach Cook is very strategic, so most practices on that Thursday have been very similar. And, yes, the team does practice on Thanksgiving for those of you who are wondering. They will usually have a lighter practice that day since they either played the night before or will play the following day. I would compare it to their game day serve and pass practices. Little to no jumping is involved, and they are mainly focused on serving, passing and getting their blood flowing. Research has actually shown that when players have a solid workout the day before or after a game, it can aid in the recovery process or help enhance their performance.
After that lighter practice for about an hour, the team will follow up with yoga and then possibly some meditation exercises or, as coach likes to call it, mindfulness training.
The last tradition I want to highlight, which Coach Cook started doing recently, was writing a note to each player and letting them know what he is thankful for about them. Whether it is their skills on the court or how they present themselves off the court, he always has something to say about everyone. From the starters to those who don’t see much playing time, Coach is truly thankful for each and every one of his players and knows the difference they make whether they play six rotations or not.
I know I was blessed to have had him as a coach and of course have him as a dad. I know the current team feels lucky to have him leading them through this intense five-month season. I know the future Huskers who will play for him someday feel appreciated as well, otherwise they probably wouldn’t have chosen Nebraska to. And I am sure the fans are thankful to have a coach who bleeds Husker red and continues to bring success to the university.
Happy Thanksgiving, Husker Nation!
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.