John Farrow introduced our speaker Steven Snyder, Queen's Golden Gaels Head Football Coach.  Steve is only the fifth coach in Queen’s football history (no pressure there), so there's the weight of history on him!  Born in London, Ontario, Steve played football for St. Francis Xavier University in Nova Scotia, but returned to coach at Western University.  John thanked Queen’s Alumni Magazine for reporting Steve's story, giving him the idea for the invite.  
 
Steve began by thanking us for the invitation.  People only see the 'game face' of Queen's Football and don't realize that there is so much going on behind the scenes.  There are 110 student athletes on the team – the staff recruited all of them, and purposely brought them to Queen’s.  Queen's Football operates 365 days a year and the student athletes are committed to the team 6 days a week! There are also 13 coaches, 5 of whom are full-time paid employees, plus 3 team doctors, 2 physiotherapists, 2 videographers.  2 equipment managers and more.  This means there aree over 125 people as part of the Queen's football family.
 
Steve focuses heavily on team culture and coaching his assistant coaches – which is a different role for him from when he was one of the assistant coaches at Western.  At 34 years old, Steve is the youngest university football head coach in Canada.  The foundation of his philosophy and team is ‘reliability’.  This translates to the ABC's:  A-Always show up for your commitments, B-Be on time (early is on time), and C-Communicate (beforehand, if you can’t do A or B). If you live your life by the ABC's success will follow.
 
Pride in a team comes from ownership – the greatest teams are formed when the teams themselves take the leadership role.  In Steve's first team meeting the names of all the players were posted and the team members were asked to vote on the most reliable members – those 14 guys unite the team and drive the culture forward.  Called the Unity Council – they have a direct role in what the team does.  When Steve wants to institute a new protocol, they help him roll it out.
 
Relationships are key and there must be broader connection than just football – even if football isn’t going well, Steve wants to have a healthy, positive connection through mentorship.  To this end, Steve also developed the 'Gael for Life' program, which teaches life skills for success beyond football and Queen’s.  The influence of a coach is so extensive in the lives of the players (Steve sees them more than their parents do) - why would they want to confine their world to 'just chasing a football'?  The idea is to prepare people for life beyond football with life skills.  The Unity Council helped to decide what life skills are most important to learn:  networking, responsible social media use, home ownership, job interviews and resume building, basic financial literacy…..  and the team was even taught handshaking!  Can’t have a sub-par handshake!  Steve believes that the players will be meeting many people over their careers and first impressions count.
 
Steve says this is the most fun as he's ever had as a coach – for 6 days, 12 hours a day, the coaching staff interviewed every player in a mock job interview situation and then gave each other feedback.  Then the staff shared top job interview questions to be prepared for when the players are in this situation again.  All the players wanted to know when they could do this again!  This led Steve to ask us to please consider our students for any summer employment opportunities you may know about.  You will benefit from having a dedicated employee at your business.
 
As part of the Gaels' commitment to Kingston, the team has a Community Engagement coach – team members participate in food bank fundraising (Tackle Hunger), autism mentorship, and are in the local schools several times a year.  Steve says we have no professional football team, so the Gaels want to be the best team representing Kingston.
 
The Gaels only play 8 regular season games in a year, and can only play a maximum of 13 if the go all the way, but we keep working every day for the balance of the year.  There is no 'sitting on the couch' for these guys.  Every day the work on conditioning, developing football skills, and preparing for that next game.
 
Right now Steve and the coaches are in the recruiting phase.  Each week they bring 4-6 student athletes to campus to check us out.  This week there are 4 from British Columbia, next week students from Manitoba.  We have 3 separate evaluations of each candidate’s potential :  physical (in person or videotape of playing - the 'dog' stamp), academic (transcripts - the 'scholar' stamp), and most importantly, character – that’s where Steve comes in :  will they contribute to the culture? Can we trust them? Will they be reliable?  They snoop on them (social media), talk to their High School coach, visit the family home, high school etc.  The team is looking for OKG's (Our Kinda Guy) for the final stamp – driven to graduate (can they succeed even without football); passionate about the ‘process’ of football (90% of what we do is preparation); respectful and responsible:  you’re representing our team – we must treat everyone with respect.  Our number 1 goal is to be the most respected team on campus and in the community.  Our number 2 goal is to win the championship.  Steve wants to build champions that can win us a championship.
 
In closing, Steve talked about their marvelous stadium, and invited us to come out see a game (maybe a Rotary Day?).  He also spoke briefly about his time playing professional football in Germany, where he met the women who would become his wife.
 
Steve was thanked today for his presentation by Ed Thompson.  Steve is an intense fellow who is should take the Gaels football team to new heights, and develop some amazing young adults in the process. 
 
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