John Cook: Why Video Matters in Volleyball

The mod­ern ath­lete learns best from visu­al stim­uli, and smart coach­es like Cook are tak­ing advan­tage. Check out the sec­ond of our three-part series with the Nebraska coach.

John Cook: Why Video Matters in Volleyball

The mod­ern ath­lete learns best from visu­al stim­uli, and smart coach­es like Cook are tak­ing advan­tage. Check out the sec­ond of our three-part series with the Nebraska coach.

Adaptability is key to sus­tain­ing long-term suc­cess as a coach, a fact John Cook tapped into ear­ly on. His abil­i­ty to alter his teach­ing style to con­nect with play­ers has kept Nebraska at the top of the col­lege vol­ley­ball rank­ings for much of the last 18 years, with four nation­al cham­pi­onships and an aver­age of 29.5 wins per season.

Cook real­ized this gen­er­a­tion spends more time star­ing at a screen than any before it, caus­ing the ath­letes, in gen­er­al, to be visu­al learn­ers. To effec­tive­ly com­mu­ni­cate with his play­ers, Cook need­ed more visu­al stim­uli, and video proved to be the per­fect answer.

Your gen­er­a­tion, which we call gen­er­a­tion Y or the mil­len­ni­als, as you have grown up, your lis­ten­ing skills have dimin­ished but your visu­al skills are real­ly good because you are so used to being on tech­nol­o­gy, iPhones, com­put­ers, etc.,” Cook said. So video has become even more important.” 

The Huskers uti­lize the visu­al ele­ment in sev­er­al ways that keep their ath­letes inter­est­ed and help them learn faster. In the sec­ond of our three-part series, Cook explains how Nebraska uses video to devel­op, scout and give life to data.


Video has become the great teacher for Nebraska. The ath­letes are so well-versed in eval­u­at­ing their play at this point that they often rec­og­nize their mis­takes before a coach even brings it up.

Our play­ers are trained well enough that it’s almost a self auto­cor­rect for them,” Cook said. They know what they did wrong, we don’t even have to tell them.”

So crit­i­cal is video to quick learn­ing that Nebraska set up an instant replay sys­tem in prac­tice. There is a wall by the court with two giant TV screens that are con­stant­ly dis­play­ing the pre­vi­ous play, allow­ing the staff to make imme­di­ate cor­rec­tions and have the ath­letes phys­i­cal­ly see what the coach­es mean.

Cook also shares video with play­ers to watch on their own time and has the play­ers come in a few times a week to meet with coach­es and break down clips from prac­tice and pre­vi­ous matches. 

It is imme­di­ate feed­back, and I think that is very impor­tant in coach­ing to have that,” Cook said. The longer I coach, the more impor­tant video has become.”


Video allows Nebraska to peek into the future and get a read on what the upcom­ing opponent’s strat­e­gy will be. Cook is then able to craft a game plan and pre­pare his play­ers for what they’re about to face.

This is par­tic­u­lar­ly help­ful when the Huskers are in a tour­na­ment or play­ing on back-to-back days. The video allows Cook to quick­ly dis­sect oppo­nent ten­den­cies and visu­al­ly show his ath­letes what to expect and how they can attack.

Whether we are play­ing Penn State, or Texas or Stanford, we use that video and it is bro­ken down by the Volleymetrics sys­tem that is pow­ered by Hudl,” Cook said. We can break every­thing down to show what we want to show. So we try to get the main con­cepts of what do we have to do with our game plan to be suc­cess­ful to stop these guys and score against them.”


Cook and his staff have become pro­fi­cient at sort­ing through video to pull out use­ful nuggets of infor­ma­tion, but they get a hand from data. Nebraska leans heav­i­ly on the num­bers to empha­size strengths and iron out any weaknesses.

There is a say­ing in coach­ing that if you want it to be impor­tant you have to mea­sure it,” Cook said. So we use ana­lyt­ics to stat our play­ers to know where they’re at, and for them to know where their per­form­ing and where our team is per­form­ing. We know the base­line that we need. We want to get our play­ers above that base­line and our team above that baseline.”

What tru­ly brings the reports to life is their con­nec­tion to video. By sim­ply select­ing a stat, Cook can see a playlist filled with that number’s asso­ci­at­ed moments. He can look at indi­vid­ual play­er con­tri­bu­tions or the per­for­mance of cer­tain line­ups with total ease.

The bot­tom line is, with all that for our own play­ers, it is an effi­cien­cy we are after,” he said. We want them to be effi­cient. So we are mea­sur­ing their good plays, their bad plays, and how effi­cient they are and we have dif­fer­ent ways we mea­sure that and eval­u­ate it.”

For more insights from Cook, includ­ing the past, present and future of vol­ley­ball, click here. If you want more great coach­ing resources, down­load our free eBook.

Also in this series: 

The Past, Present and Future of Volleyball, According to John Cook

John Cook Explains How to Get on Recruiting Radars