“With each other, for each other.” I think in all the years of Nebraska volleyball coming up with its annual season theme that one stuck the most. It was not only relatable to the Huskers, but also to the fans. Plus, Nebraska had a very successful year buying into that theme, so that is probably why it is known around the state. Let’s go behind the scenes though and unveil how the team comes up with a theme each year, where this theme lives to be visible each day and the reasoning behind why Coach John Cook believes having a theme, or as he calls it, a “why,” is so crucial.
Themes are made in the offseason, the summer to be specific. Most of the freshmen arrive in the summer, so usually everyone who will be on the team come fall is already there. This makes for a perfect opportunity to start some team bonding and to come up with a unified theme, sometimes more than one. There have been years where there is only one theme and years where there are multiple themes. The players meet each week with the Director of Sports Psychology, Brett Haskell, who helps them work through what their motives are for the season and what is pushing them to reach those goals. From there, the players narrow it down to their most desirable goals and they eventually come up with these shorter sayings, which translates into their theme for the year. This year they ended up with two themes: “This we will defend” and “We/Me” (We Over Me).
You are probably wondering where the themes live once they have been decided upon. Coach Cook has a saying, “See It, Believe It.” If you see something every day, then you will eventually buy into it, believe it and live it out every day. Therefore, each year the Huskers put their themes on t-shirts, which they practice in and wear around campus, on their white board, which they use every day, and in their locker room on their individual iPad’s that are located in their locker space. Between practice and being in the locker room (which you live in, especially during two-a-days) they see these themes quite often.
Coach Cook wants his players to see their themes for the year each and every day. The more they see it, the more he believes they will buy into it. At times you might hear a theme referred to as their “why.” Coach Cook also believes that you should always have a why. Whether you are an Olympic athlete, an accountant, a pilot, a zookeeper or a Nebraska volleyball player, you should always have a “why.” When you have a “why” you have something to work towards each day. You have a reason to train hard, you have a reason to eat healthy, you have a reason to take an ice bath and allow your muscles to recover, you have a reason to watch video. He justifies all that the players are asked to do by their “why.” Without a theme or a “why,” there isn’t a purpose for the 110 percent that they put in everyday. Without your “why” you don’t have a purpose.
This year’s Huskers found their “why” and that’s why they are putting in all of the hours of preparation with those words in the back of their mind. Let’s just hope this year’s themes are as successful as last year’s.
Want more of the Lo-Down? Find all of Lauren's previous columns here.
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.