Patience and youth.
Those two descriptors are not often found together.
Lake Smith, a senior defender for the South Whidbey High School soccer team, says patience is his greatest asset as a player.
“I don’t stab at balls; I don’t try to win balls,” Smith said when describing defensive technique. “I wait for my teammates; I try to be patient and relaxed. I don’t want to do anything stupid like trying to win the ball.”
His coach Emerson Robbins describes Smith as “poised” and “mature.”
“He has an instinct of where to be, and as such, is consistently cleaning up any dangerous attacks in our defensive third,” Robbins said. “I am convinced that Lake could play any position on the field, and I have little doubt that he’d be the best player we had at whatever position we put him in.”
Robbins also has no doubt that Smith, who was a first-team, all-league selection last year, is the best defender in the Cascade Conference: “I just hope that he receives this honor as it is so clearly deserved.”
Robbins has coached 35 years, coached several state champion club level teams which were stocked with all-conference players and coached many players who have gone on to play in college or at the professional level, and he said Smith would be on his all-time starting 11.
Smith, hearing Robbins’ assessment, said “that’s awesome” considering his coach’s background.
Smith also said “it would be amazing” if he won the Cascade Conference Defensive Player of the Year award as Robbins’ believes he should.
However, when stating his goals for the year, he did not mention league honors but that he hoped to help make the underclassmen better players.
He also wants to see this year’s team have success in the postseason after being ousted from the playoffs in the past on back-to-back shootout loses.
It all comes down to fundamentals and team chemistry, Smith said.
Smith added he wants to “play his hardest,” something his parents, Gary and Beth, taught him.
“They pushed me,” he said, “and they support me; they go to all my games. They have learned to love the sport because I love it.”
Robbins said Smith is like having an extra coach.
“When I speak with Lake, I always feel as if I’m speaking with a contemporary, not a high school-aged student. He is incredibly mature, and, while he’s a man of few words, he gives great thought to what he has to say.
“I consistently bounce things off him, and Lake always has excellent tactical insight to offer regarding our team’s play and the game at hand.”
Smith began playing soccer when he was 4, but he is not sure where it will fit into his life after high school.
He plans to attend Washington State University and hopes to study veterinary medicine. The Cougars do not have a varsity soccer program, so Smith said he will likely play at the college club level.
If the itch for more competitive soccer needs to be scratched, he said he might transfer to another school that offers the sport.
But, for now, he wants to focus on academics in college.
Robbins said Smith “is as fine a person as he is a player,” and that he is grateful he has had the opportunity to coach him.
“He is truly one in a million.”
It could be awhile before another player such as Smith comes along in Robbins’ program at South Whidbey.
He will just have to be patient.