John Cook and the Huskers were gearing up for their annual beach volleyball trip to Hawaii. Then the whole world changed.
The NCAA canceled all spring championships. The Big Ten suspended all competition for the rest of the season.
That meant the beach volleyball matches in Hawaii, with a stop to play in California on the way home, was also canceled. So too was the Huskers’ spring exhibition in Grand Island on April 25.
Now Cook, like all of Nebraska’s coaches, is left trying to steer his team forward with no idea about what will happen next with this global pandemic.
“What's happening is nobody really knows,” Cook said this week on the monthly podcast he does with his daughter Lauren, “Conversations with the Cooks.” “And so there's just gonna be constant communication. They're doing conference calls every day, the (athletic directors) are with the Big Ten and the NCAA, and there's a lot of things to work out. They're getting feedback, and the NCAA is gonna have to make rapid-fire decisions.”
Decisions regarding eligibility for athletes in spring sports, financial aid issues and more. Cook mostly just wants to know when his team can get back to some sense of normalcy.
Cook met with the team after competition was canceled and put it up to a vote whether they’d like to stay in Lincoln or return home to be with their families.
Nebraska has maintained all the resources it provides its athletes for those that want to stay on campus. Tutors, trainers and psychologists are still available. The training table is open for meals, but it’s only to go. The weight room is also open, but limited to 10 people at a time.
Cook said most of the team has returned home. Others like Lexi Sun, who is from San Diego, California, have stayed in Lincoln because they’re unsure if they’ll be able to make it back to Nebraska, with some parts of the country mandating people shelter in place.
The team is continuing to work out, whether they’re in Lincoln or at home. The Huskers’ strength coach created an outdoor workout plan that includes running, jumping and bodyweight exercises.
“They're used to working out, and when you don't, when you stop like that, your body craves it,” Cook said.
Cook hopes to have everybody back by April 6, which is how long the Big Ten suspended all organized team activities. But that could be pushed back depending on the spread of the coronavirus disease. Cook said Plan B for now would be a return in mid-May, though he admits even that is up in the air.
Nebraska has held meetings with all of the head coaches to update them on the situation. Cook has especially had frequent contact with Scott Frost and the football staff, because those programs follow similar schedules.
Cook is also awaiting word on what long-term effect this could have on his program. The department’s loss of revenue from spring sports — especially the spring football game — could cause Cook to reassess some things with Husker volleyball.
“If we have to start cutting travel to save money, we may have to start looking at that,” Cook said. “And I think if we're doing that, I know a lot of other schools are going to be doing that as well. So we may have to revise our schedule, stay closer to home, play more local teams.”
But in the meantime, Cook will spend a lot of time studying video on his computer, working out, and he might even get into baking.
He’s also understanding the importance of little things, like going to grab a coffee or meeting somebody for lunch. He looks forward to order being restored around the world — and especially here at Nebraska.
“When everything does get back, people are going to appreciate Nebraska sports even more,” Cook said. “Because when it's taken away, they're going to be craving it. … People are gonna be really excited to see our teams again.”
An early look at Nebraska volleyball's 2020 roster