Championship Winning Coach Blake Nill: Thriving Thunderbird


This month’s Thriving Thunderbird is Blake Nill, Head Coach of the UBC Men’s Varsity Football team.

Thriving Campus features, testimonials, contributions and personal experiences linked to health and wellbeing from UBC staff and students.

How do you Thrive at Work?

Since the nature of my work is highly competitive, most of my time is spent trying to be the best I can possibly be. I consider myself very fortunate to work in this type of environment. I have always felt that you need to push yourself to reach your potential in any capacity. As a coach at the university level, I deal with an endless volume of trials. The passion needed to overcome many of these trials keeps me invigorated and young at heart.

How do you Thrive at Home?

At home I am very interested in learning how to live a heathier and more productive life. The lifestyle here in Vancouver fits my ideology well and it is certainly easier to motivate yourself to be active and health conscious when that is the norm. I am looking forward to the experiences offered in Vancouver that differ from other cities I have previously lived in. I am a strong advocate of fitness and basic fundamental principles as it relates to health. I truly believe in “healthy mind = heathy body”.

I try and live as healthy as I can by being open-minded and following guidelines associated with diet, rest, and activity. I enjoy learning about new trends in wellbeing and am very interested in the science of health and wellbeing.

How do you promote wellbeing to students and colleagues you work with?

I am a strong advocate of the importance associated with the fitness component of football and the science that it parallels. I want my athletes to achieve their fitness potential and try and provide the tools necessary to reach those goals.

What do you do in your free time to recharge?

Most of my free-time is spent in some form of physical activity. In the winter off-season I am a regular at hot yoga, and have recently started taking TRX classes. I am a regular in the weight room and try to run year-round. I enjoy the physical activities that are available here in Vancouver. I enjoy the challenge of Grouse Mountain and regularly do the Grind. Paddle boarding is a work in progress. This summer I started swimming daily at the Kitsilano Pool. Swimming not only provides an excellent source of physical fitness but I use it as a state to think. I make some of my best decisions as I go up and down the pool.

What are central challenges you face in your role as Head Football Coach? How do you overcome them?

As a varsity coach responsible for 90+ athletes, you are continuously dealing with issues associated with their lives. The sheer number of decisions you make per day can often create significant stress. Add to that my competitive nature and desire to succeed, and it is easy to see where my challenges originate. This is my 25th year as a varsity coach. I try and use my experiences as much as possible to remain calm, stay focused, and make the right decisions. My experience helps me a lot.

Blake Nill is currently the 18th head coach of the UBC Thunderbirds football program. He has led the team to an impressive win of the 51st Vanier Cup in 2015.

One of the most successful coaches in Canadian Interuniversity Sport (CIS) football, Blake joined the Thunderbirds after nine years as head coach of the University of Calgary. Prior to that he spent eight seasons as head coach at Saint Mary’s University. In 17 seasons as a CIS head coach, Blake has a career record (regular season and playoffs) of 130-47.

Over the last nine years, Blake led the Dinos to three Vanier Cup appearances (2009, 2010 & 2013) and a record six straight Hardy Cup Championships (2008-13) as the Canada West’s top team. In each of his last seven seasons in Calgary, the Dinos won at least five regular season games and one playoff game. From 2007-2014, the Dinos had 23 players selected in the Canadian Football League draft, eight of which were taken in the first round. Blake won the Frank Tindall Trophy as CIS Coach of the Year in 1999 and was a finalist in 2000, 2001, 2003, 2009, 2012, and 2013. He has been named Canada West coach of the year on three occasions: 2009, 2012, and 2013.

A native of Hanna, AB, Blake’s first head coaching job in the CIS was with Saint Mary’s University in Halifax, NS. In eight years with the Huskies, he led them to a record six-straight Atlantic University Sport Championships (1999-2004), four trips to the Vanier Cup (1999, 2001, 2002, 2003), and two Vanier Cup Championships (2001 & 2002). Blake‘s CIS coaching career began at St. Francis Xavier as a defensive coordinator in 1992. He spent six years with the X-Men, helping them to a Vanier Cup appearance in 1996.

During his playing days, Blake suited up for the Calgary Dinos from 1980 through 1982. He was drafted by the Montreal Concordes in the third round, 19th overall in the 1983 CFL Draft. He played in the CFL from 1983-88 with Montreal, Hamilton, and Winnipeg.

Blake graduated from Concordia University in 1989 with a Bachelor of Arts and has a Bachelor of Science and a Masters of Education from St. Francis Xavier University.

(Photos - UBC file photos)

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