(Editors Note: The following was submitted by Samantha Jeannot, a senior at North Plainfield High School senior and intern with TAPinto North Plainfield, Green Brook & Watchung).
NORTH PLAINFIELD, NJ – Back in December, Robert Lake stepped down from his position as coach of North Plainfield High School’s (NPHS) varsity football team. Lake, a history teacher at the school, held the position for 22 years and was the longest-tenured high school head football coach in Somerset County.
Lake told TAPinto North Plainfield that the design to resign was a difficult one, but one he felt in order to take the next step in his career. Lake, whose personal goal is to become an athletic director, stepped down in order to focus on obtaining a master’s degree.
“I believe that you should want to be a leader in anything you do,” said Lake.
Lake attended North Plainfield High School, played baseball and football and after graduating in 1991 went on to be a running back William Paterson University. Unsure of the career path he wanted to pursue. Lake said it was his father’s work as a history teacher that influenced his interest in the subject. Through his own experiences as a substitute teacher, Lake discovered his own love for teaching.
Realizing his love for the game was still running strong, Lake returned to his roots, taking on an assistant coaching position in North Plainfield in 1994. In 1999, he went to Bridgewater-Raritan for one year, working as an assistant coach, before returning to North Plainfield and taking on the role of head.
As head football coach at North Plainfield High School, Lake led the Canucks to a 13-1 record against rival South Plainfield in the annual Thanksgiving Day game with the team suffering it’s only loss during the 2014 season. Additionally, his most successful season as coach occurred in 2010 when, with a 9-1 record, the team made it to the Central Jersey Group 2 playoffs.
Throughout his coaching career, Lake found joy in helping students through their struggles and watching them grow. “I’m going to miss the relationship you build with the kids,” said Lake, adding that, despite the difficulties and losses, he always reflected upon himself in order to propel progression.
“Growing up knowing Coach Lake since I was little kid I always looked up to him,” said Jonathan Donatelli, a member of the North Plainfield High School Varsity Canucks. “I will miss him being my coach very much but I will continue to live by the values he has instilled in me.”
Lake did not only reach out to his team but to the men that worked beside him, including his former coaching staff. “I won't miss him because he'll still be here but I'll miss him coaching,” said varsity football coach and physical education teacher Thomas Bannon.
“I wish him the best of luck in his graduated school. I'm glad he'll be here to consult if I ever have any problems,” added Dejohn Cataldo, who also serves as a coach and physical education teacher at NPHS.
Although Lake may not be under the ‘Friday Night Lights’ next fall, he plans to work toward helping all teams as part of the school’s sports administration.
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