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Book Review: Dream Like A Champion

John Cook’s honesty about his coaching methods is refreshing. Excellent book and Christmas is coming!

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Gallery Photo: Huskers vs. St. Mary's Volleyball Gallery David McGee

The University of Nebraska Press sent me Dream Like a Champion: Wins, Losses, and Leadership the Nebraska Volleyball Way when it was first released in September 2017. I had planned to review it, but I put it on the shelf and then a lot of things happened this year and I forgot about it until about two weeks ago.

It's a good time for review. Nebraska volleyball is knee-deep in the NCAA volleyball tournament and is about to face their nemesis Penn State. Also, Christmas is coming and I know that your family already has everything that they want or need. You'd still like to get them present, and this book is a great option.

I typically read the books I'm reviewing instead of just writing a review off the media information that they send. I thought about being lazy with this one, but I started reading it. My first thought upon finishing is how honest John Cook is with regards to the information he doles out in this book.

I've read a fair amount of coaches books, and most of them are like business – leadership books. They have a few insights, but they are mostly fluff. You have to read about 200 pages to get a few things that might help you. Cook's book is fairly detailed with regards to the trials and tribulations he's gone through in both his regular life and in his coaching career.

At the beginning, it almost sounds like he's doing a lot of name dropping, but what he's doing is letting you know where he's been and where he has come from.

The concept of "culture" is spread throughout the entire book. Sports fans focus heavily on talent and athleticism, and in Nebraska, we especially focus on "heart". “Team culture” is largely overlooked because most of us are not in the position where we are coaching or managing teams of people. We don’t deal with it, and we certainly don’t understand it, so we dismiss it or diminish its importance.

Keep in mind that the “culture” concept goes beyond sports but is relative to our daily lives whether we are working in business, farming, research, or John Cook's case – winning championships at the University of Nebraska.

The chapter on "Training the Complete Athlete" is eye-opening in the level of detail that goes into getting athletes to perform at their highest potential. You and I don't put a lot of thought into whether or not an athlete got enough sleep before they played in the big game. We don't think about their nutrition, at least not very much. We certainly don't have to come up with ways to measure peak performance. We don't think about all the people that are involved behind-the-scenes.

The next chapter is on "Training the iCentered Athlete". It's a beautiful chapter because Cook talks about the changes in the behavior of young athletes and how he had to change to deal with them. "Instant Gratification" and the person to person contact that is missing because of cell phones or "screens" are the center of the chapter. It's an excellent chapter. You can complain about young people all you want, but if you have to deal with them you damn well better learn how. If you're in that position, this chapter might be worth the price of the book alone.

There's a chapter on "Regrets" in which Cook details many, many things he did wrong throughout his coaching career. It includes errors he made with players, his teams, and it includes this line:

"If there is one regret that encompasses most of my coaching career, it is this: I wish I would have learned earlier to coach with love rather than anger."

I used to think yelling at people earlier in my IT career was an appropriate way of dealing with them. I have been incredibly difficult to work with at times in my life. Nobody likes being yelled at their place of work, do they? If they do, it's rare. Yet when our athletes are not performing at the level we desire, we (as fans) think that a coach yelling at them will solve the problem. It doesn't matter if it's football, volleyball, baseball or whatever the sport – "that coach should be motivating them to do better by yelling at them" – is a constant theme in our fandom. It is unbelievably dumb; something we should throw away as a relic of the past.

Overall this is an excellent book. It is written by Brandon Vogel, who wrote for me years ago when I was doing the yearbooks for Maple Street Press. Brandon writes for Hail Varsity, and is an excellent, professional writer, and Nebraska sports would do well to have more of him.

If you're a Nebraska volleyball fan you should own this book. There are many stories about what happened during the seasons to players and individual teams. If you have questions, the book probably has answers.

If you're Nebraska football fan, you might want to strongly consider this book as there are details about Nebraska's athletic department you will find interesting. The concept of "team culture" doesn't just apply to Nebraska volleyball, but it will be a central theme to Nebraska football in the very near future.

If you are a young athlete, particularly volleyball player, you might want this book because it gives you insight as to what is required to become great, how difficult recruiting is, and how to deal with your life when you're no longer the greatest athlete at your school but one of many.

If you are in management of people in any vocation, you might strongly consider this book is to get insights in different ways on managing your people as well as yourself.

As I said, Dream Like a Champion: Wins, Losses, and Leadership the Nebraska Volleyball Way is an excellent book and Christmas is coming. It would make an excellent present.