BASSETERRE, St. Kitts - IT is said that all good things must come to an end, but the end for one former Kittitian athlete came while he was at the peak of his career.
That athlete is the famous Lennie Lake, who was born in the community of Newtown into a sports and music-loving family on May 25, 1967.
Lake became famous for being one of the Federation’s better footballers and cricketers, as he played both disciplines at a very high level before his career came to an abrupt end through an injury at the early age of 25.
That injury, however, did not deter him from being involved in the sports arena; for he was appointed Head Coach for the St. Kitts-Nevis Senior Football Team and is currently employed as the Technical Director of the St. Kitts-Nevis Football Association (SKNFA).
In an exclusive interview with SKNVibes, Lake said he was born into sports.
“It is a statement that sounds very humorous, but it is a statement that is very true…that is the only thing that I know.”
In a detailed explanation, Lake stated that members of his family had played a major role in charting the course for his involvement in sports.
“Traditionally, I came from a background of music. Growing up, I had Ellie Matt and the GI Brass playing in my head day in day out. Ellie Matt is my uncle, so I came from a music background. But on the other side, my father played cricket and football and he also played for St. Kitts in both sports. So from very early in my life I gravitated to sport along with my brothers and cousins. We played a lot of football, cricket and all sorts of sports in Newtown where some of my skills were enhanced.”
Lake also explained where he used to play the sports that he enjoyed.
“The Newtown Paddock is where I used to go to play most of my sports or at the Convent High School where they had a basketball ring. From time to time we would run to Warner Park so very early I was involved in sports and it continued when I was going to school. I played when I was in the Newtown primary school at a very early age at about 3rd grade I had the first shot of cricket.”
He also explained the success he achieved from a very early age while holding leadership roles.
“Cricket always led for me in terms of achievement, and football was always the one that caught up later down. And until I was in Grade Six, I was captain of both teams and we won the primary school competition in both sports under my leadership. From a very early age I was always placed in a position where I have led teams.”
Lake pointed out that though he was a blessed athlete, education always took precedence over all of his physical activities.
“After primary, I went to high school where I continued playing football and cricket. But outside of that, I think that education for me was a given. It was not that you have to do your schoolwork; it was that schoolwork is done then sports will come in after. So sports to me was second, even though I loved it.
“Fortunately for me, I am a twin and sometimes when I am out representing the school my twin stayed in the class. So when you think I would have missed notes he had them waiting for me.”
He also remembered when he had captained a combined team from the Basseterre Junior High and Basseterre High Schools in the island’s high school tournament.
“When I went to high school, a lot of things started to happen because I was exposed to a higher level…I was now playing among the big boys.
“Then at around 15 years I was selected to the St. Kitts National Cricket Team and I actually played two games. From high school, I went into the community teams in Newtown and never played for nobody else. There is where I grew up, there is where I learnt my craft and became a better player.”
Lake had progressed to become a very good all-rounder in cricket and, after his performance was viewed as a star in the making, he was given an opportunity to play the game on English soil.
“In 1989, after playing for St. Kitts and doing well in the Leeward Islands Tournament, I got a chance to play cricket in Wales for a whole season with fellow national Keith Arthurton. We had a great time there and it was the first time I had the opportunity to go out of the Caribbean to play cricket.”
Lake also elaborated on the many successes he enjoyed while he was an active athlete.
“One of the things I had found in my career as a football and a cricketer was that I had always been winning championships, and that was significant. I played one season in Wales and we won, and the year I played in the Leeward Islands team we did the double as a cricket team. I played for Newtown in football for nine years and won seven championships. We also played the club championship for three years and won three times.
“Winning was one thing, but what I took from it is the opportunity to know how to lead. I was always placed in a position to lead and was always successful in understanding what is needed to get to the top. And I think that for me was one of the lessons I got from sports…how it is to be always at the top.
“One of the things that I have realised in being in sports and being a champion, is that you need humility; recognising that today is for you and tomorrow is not for you. And if you have to do it again, you have to ensure that you are humble.”
Lake then highlighted how his career came to a forceful end.
“I played for St. Kitts in football and cricket for 10 years, but I always tell people I had a short career. And the people in St. Kitts who know me would know that I started at 15 but finished at 25 in the peak of most persons career. I did not play again competitively.
“I got an injury and to this day the injury is still there. I had an ACL Tear and a Meniscus Tear which required major surgery. And back then it was very unlikely you could have recovered, because back then surgery was really costly.”
Though upset that his career was short lived, Lake however takes the positives from the abrupt end.
“Around 25 I left football and cricket. Some people may say sad but I look at it as things happen for a reason. When I look back, I always wonder what would have happened if I had continued, but I always say to myself, ‘Maybe it was all for this to become an administrator and be Technical Director, and probably you would have to sacrifice a playing career to get into a coaching career.’”
He added: “The experience has taught me a lot. It taught me how to fall down and not stay down and being able to recognise that failure is a moment. In life, those little stories we take from defeat will determine where we will be tomorrow.
“Becoming a coach at 26 was a different career for me, but for me it was something from an early age I enjoyed. I did not know how I got into it, but I think while playing for Newtown I thought, ‘Let me try coaching some little children’…and we started the first ever Newtown Academy under my leadership.
“I wanted to give back what I got from sports and what I got from education, because I thought that it was an opportunity for me to help people and not walk away with what I have learnt just for myself.”
Lake was appointed a FIFA Grassroots Instructor in 2011 and is the first Kittitian to have held that appointment. St. Kitts is one of only two Caribbean countries to boast Grassroots Instructors; Trinidad is the other.
Lake played two First Class matches for the Leeward Islands as well as seven one day games, and he also represented the St. Kitts-Nevis Senior National Football Team on a number of occasions.