Coaching changes are coming at Caledonia Park – Coach Snoop won’t be back with the V.I. Raiders.
Matthew (Snoop) Blokker announced Thursday that he won’t be re-signing as head coach of Nanaimo’s Canadian Junior Football League team.
“I feel in my heart it’s time and I feel good about it,” he said. “I’ve known this throughout pretty much the whole year and it hasn’t changed.”
Blokker said he’s looking for a new challenge somewhere where he can coach football as a full-time job. The Raiders club, he said, doesn’t have the financial means to be able to make that kind of offer.
“The next level is where there’s definitely opportunities for jobs and I’ve got to work towards that,” he said. “In the junior level there’s only a few clubs that do that.”
Blokker won’t be heading to any other B.C. team, he assured. He has an agent to help him in his job hunt and he has the support of his family to make a move.
“To pack our bags and move because there’s an opportunity to better ourself as a family and move ahead in a career, that’s life…” he said. “We’re a football family and all they know is football. The hardest thing in the world was trying to explain to my son that I’m no longer the head coach for the Raiders.”
Blokker helped to bring junior football to Nanaimo alongside team owner Hadi Abassi in 2005, first trying to move the Victoria Rebels club and then instead being granted an expansion franchise in the B.C. Football Conference.
He coached the team from 2005-2007 and from 2008-2013, leading the Raiders to six BCFC championships, five Canadian Bowl appearances and three national titles. During that time he also became the winningest coach in B.C. junior football history.
After his last win at Caledonia Park, a provincial championship victory in October, Blokker said he didn’t leave the field until hours later.
“That was a really emotional time for me,” he said. “I spent some time by myself on that field and I knew in my heart and my mind that was probably the last game I was going to coach on that field.”
He feels as though he’s leaving the team in great shape, having recruited a young group of players last year that will continue to develop.
The Raiders’ longtime offensive coordinator Daryl Rodgers and defensive coordinator Doug Hocking aren’t expected back, but Blokker said there are other coaches qualified to step into greater roles and he said he hopes the club will promote from within.
“In my mind this program really needs to grow,” he said. “It needs to grow at the board level and it needs to grow at the coaching level to continue to have growth at the player level.”
Kabel Atwall, vice-president of the V.I. Raiders, said it would be “next to impossible” to have a full-time paid head coach.
“The reality is, we’re a society and we live on the money that we raise and gate receipts,” he said.
Atwall said he and Raiders president Chris Cross sat down with the head coach and told him they would welcome him to stay on, but would support his decision either way. It will be a challenge to replace Blokker, he said.
“He’s been here since Day 1 and if anybody was sort of embedded in the team, it was him.”
He thinks the club’s national profile will help in the search for a new coach.
“We’ll try to do this as quickly and as seamlessly as possible,” Atwall said. “With the reputation the Raiders have, I don’t think we’ll have a problem attracting good candidates for the position … If there’s somebody applying from within, obviously they would get maximum consideration but at the same time, there’s a lot of other good people in the country and even in the city of Nanaimo who might be interested.”
The Raiders might shuffle some duties around, as Blokker handled many other roles aside from coaching. But one coaching duty will always remain the same.
“Any coach that we hire will have to be in line with the Raider philosophy, and that’s winning,” said Atwall. “We’re not looking for a drop-off in any regard.”
Blokker said he’s grateful to the community for embracing the Raiders, supporting them, sponsoring them and cheering them on over the years.
“I was always extremely honoured to be the coach of this team and I leave that way,” he said. “At the end of it I just hope that sports fans and people in Nanaimo will remember what I’ve done here as a coach and remember me as a winner … It’s been one hell of a run.”