Snyder takes the reins

New football head coach touts culture, recruiting as pillars of new era

Snyder hopes to lead the Gaels back to the playoffs.
Credit: 
Jeff Chan

For a native of London, Ontario, former Mustangs Offensive Coordinator and freshly-minted Gaels Head Coach Steve Snyder’s philosophy is distinctly Queen’s.

“Never surrender is our daily mentality,” Snyder said in an introductory press conference. “Our young men have already taken to that and they’re excited.”

Cha gheill, Gaelic for “never surrender,” is the mantra plastered up and down the new Richardson Stadium. It’s only fitting that Snyder is adopting it as the focal point of his ongoing culture revamp, given that he represents the final piece of the Queen’s Football overhaul.

The new Richardson opened in 2016, the Physical Education Centre (PEC) is on the cusp of opening, and there are new Nike uniforms. Everything outside of the team itself changed.

But with stalwart quarterback Nate Hobbs’ graduation last year, Athletics & Recreation (A&R) saw the opportunity to complete the overhaul with a prodigious young coach in Snyder, who is only the fifth head coach in Queen’s Football history.

The scale of the systemic changes are echoed by the revamped coaching staff.

Of the 11 coaches this year (excluding Snyder), only four were here in 2018. Notably, Ryan Bechmanis at defensive coordinator and Ben D’Andrea at special teams coordinator avoided getting lost in the shuffle.

The new staff reflects Snyder’s coaching journey. His handpicked offensive coordinator, Tom Flaxman, was an opponent from their playing days in the AUS. His offensive line assistant, Dimitri Pronko, played under him at Western. And his new defensive line coach, Nick Dowd, just completed a standout career with the Gaels.

In an email to The Journal, Snyder said he was searching for coaches “ ... who care about student-athletes and who want to commit to building a program, not just coaching football.”

A major part of rebuilding a program is recruiting, and that hasn’t been lost on Snyder.

“We’re all passionate about recruiting as well, and that’s going to be a big part of our program,” Snyder said at his introductory presser.

“One of the reasons I’m here is that I want to be able to go into a young man’s home with him and his family… and be able to look him in the eye and say we’ve got the best university in Canada.”

“Queen’s sells itself as soon as you start to do some research, as soon as you set foot on campus.”

Fresh off two consecutive trips to the Vanier Cup with the Mustangs, including a win in 2017, Snyder inherits a team with next to no playoff experience.

Three veterans remain from the Gaels’ embarrassing first round exit to a new Carleton program in 2015, and the rest have only experienced a terse playoff loss to McMaster in 2017.

Most players have never had a winning season as a Gael. But that’s not to say they haven’t been competitive. Their 10-14 record over the past three seasons could easily be inverted if not for some memorable gaffes at crucial moments.

“Attack and finish.” That’s been the refrain the new-look Gaels had drilled into them throughout training camp.

“The real thing we want to find in our program and we want to develop is reliability. We want everyone in our program to be reliable,” said Snyder.

“We don’t have to have the most talented team in the country. We’ve just got to have a group full of reliable people that want to work together and we’ll be able to accomplish great things and bring a national championship.”

Snyder seems determined to address the inconsistency that has plagued the Gaels in years past. Time will tell whether his method can cement him among the greats.

 

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