One would think that after all of these years, Coach John Cook might get tired of traveling to China, and sometimes Japan, as an international destination with the team. However, it is a trip he looks forward to every four years. He believes it has aided in winning national championships and building relationships that will produce success on the court while lasting a lifetime off the court.
In the first Lo-Down of 2019, we will dissect why taking advantage of a foreign trip is one of the best investments you can make if you are a collegiate volleyball program.
Per NCAA rules, college teams are allowed to take one international trip every four years. The University of Nebraska sets aside a budgeted amount for the team and then preparation mainly happens between Coach Cook and Lindsay Peterson, the Director of Volleyball Operations. (We will talk about her job and everything she does for the program in a later Lo-Down this season.) They also have connections in China and Japan from prior trips that they utilize throughout the planning process.
So, why does Nebraska continue to go back to Japan and China every four years, and what is the point of even taking an international trip in the first place?
Well, let me lay it out for you. First and foremost, both of these countries have exceptional volleyball. Some of the best professional teams in the world are in China and Japan and they are usually represented well in the Olympics. Needless to say, Nebraska is challenged more over there than if they were to play Penn State, Minnesota or Wisconsin here in the states.
Coach Cook has made comments before that he would be happy just winning a set against some of the teams they face over there. That is coming from one of the most competitive people I know, so hopefully it puts into perspective the high-level volleyball that takes place on these trips.
It is also an opportunity to get your freshmen acquainted with the veterans and for all players to receive extra training. Not only are you practicing and playing once you arrive, but you are putting in preparation for a couple of weeks before the trip begins.
To follow that up, you are on the road for 17 days, in and out of two countries, visiting multiple cities, boarding plenty of planes, trains and taking what seems like a million bus rides. That’s what this year’s China and Japan trip consisted of and what previous trips have as well. The team and coaches are tested by not only being together through all of that, but having to manage playing, sightseeing and eating a different cuisine than they are used to. Fish heads and duck necks are a couple of examples. Or as I recall, rats were once running underneath our table as we were eating dinner one night. Thankfully, we didn’t have to eat those.
Through all of that, you build closer relationships as teammates, which then transfers to success on the court during the upcoming season. If you look into the past, some of the years the team traveled to China, they also won a national championship. Chemistry and relationships play a large role in how teams do during their season.
Whether or not a foreign trip is worth it isn’t even a question. From the extra reps all players receive to the bonding that happens throughout the time they are abroad, success is bound to happen. Even though you are pushed beyond your limits and tested more than you ever thought possible, being a player and taking this trip is something that I will carry with me for a very long time.
I also know that Coach Cook will continue to take teams to China and Japan for as long as he is the head coach at Nebraska, which will hopefully be for the next 20 years.