Monday, June 11, 2018

Dream Like A Champion: Wins, Losses, and Leadership the Nebraska Volleyball Way by John Cook

Dream Like A Champion: Wins, Losses, and Leadership the Nebraska Volleyball Way by John Cook with Brandon Vogel
Published 2017 by University of Nebraska Press
Source: borrowed from my parents to whom it was loaned by a friend

Publisher's Summary:

Since becoming the Nebraska women’s volleyball coach in 2000, John Cook has led the team to four national championships, seven NCAA semifinal appearances, and the nation’s top winning percentage in women’s volleyball. In Dream Like a Champion Cook shares the coaching and leadership philosophy that has enabled him to become one of the game’s winningest coaches.

Growing up in San Diego, Cook acquired his coaching philosophy from his experiences first as a football coach, then as a student of the sport of volleyball on the beaches of Southern California. After a stint as an assistant volleyball coach at Nebraska, he returned to Nebraska as head coach in 2000 and won the national championship in his first season. Even with a bar set so high, Cook saw at Nebraska’s tradition-rich program the potential for even greater growth and success. He decided to focus on higher expectations, training, motivation, goal setting, and other ways to build the strongest teams possible.

In Dream Like a Champion Cook shares the philosophy behind Nebraska’s culture of success and reveals how he’s had to learn, evolve, and be coached himself, even in his fifth decade as a coach. With openness and candor he delivers insights about his methods and passes along lessons that can be used by leaders in any field. Cook also shares behind-the-scenes anecdotes about Nebraska volleyball moments and players—and how he coaches and teaches his players about life beyond the court.

My Thoughts:
When John Cook took over the University of Nebraska volleyball program, we knew he was going to be a good coach. But we also imagined that this program, which had only in the past few years become a great program, was going to take a hit. I mean, you just don't get two coaches in a row that can build championship teams. Except Nebraska volleyball did. Under Cook, Nebraska has been the Big 12 champion 12 times, the Big 10 champion 4 times, and national champions 4 times. This man knows how to coach.

In this book, he shares a lot about the way he coaches and the tools he uses. He is quick to give credit to others who have helped him along the way, people whose advice he has sought, and the coaches who have assisted him over the years. He has high praise for the University, which has thrown its full support behind the team, and the people of Nebraska who have become, maybe not even arguably, the greatest volleyball fans in the country.

Cook spends a lot of time talking about how important culture is to a sports program. When he took over the volleyball program at the University of Wisconsin, it was a program that had a long way to rise. There he developed a mindset among that girls that had them playing with a chip on their shoulders, wanting to prove something. It was just what they needed; in just a few years, Cook had the program playing in the Final Four. At Nebraska, he came into a program that already had an established culture; but, Cook soon put his own imprint on the culture. It shows in the way you can always tell how hard Cook's teams work and how much of a "team" they really are.

I really enjoyed the stories Cook shared about some of the players he's coached with Nebraska, names I vividly remember, young women I remember watching play. Watching on television that is; home games have been sold out since 2001, even after the team moved to an arena that held twice as many fans. It was also nice to learn how much Cook and his family love living in Nebraska and appreciate that things about this state that so many people don't know about.

I had some minor issues with some editing problems (because I can't just read a book and enjoy it without putting on my school marm cap) but, otherwise, I enjoyed this book a lot. Would I have enjoyed it as much if it weren't about the coach of a team I love? Maybe not quite as much; but, if you're person that wants to learn coaching from one of the best, there's a lot to enjoy and learn here.

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