Cranston East’s Joe Lenk Leads Through His Granddad’s Advice

Joe Lenk and Grandad
Cranston East’s Joe Lenk and his Granddad

JOE LENK LEADS HIS CRANSTON EAST SOCCER TEAM VS TOLL GATE HIGH SCHOOL TUESDAY, OCTOBER 27 LIVE AT 4PM ON COX’S YURVIEW CHANNEL 4 AND STREAMING HERE.

Perhaps the most valuable advice Joe Lenk received from his grandfather came when he was just five years old and had stepped onto a tennis court.

“My grandfather has taught me persistence and determination. He taught me to never give up. When I first started to play tennis, he told me tennis is a very tough game to learn. It may look easy, but it’s not,” said Lenk. “You can’t give up on yourself. You have to keep pushing through.  You can’t let bad mistakes become bad habits….just like in life. You have to keep working. He told me I should never give up… I wouldn’t get better by giving up. That’s not how life works.”

Gemma Banner

That’s just what Lenk has done – on the court, on the field and in the classroom at Cranston East. Now a senior honor student, Lenk’s persistence and determination has led to multiple leadership roles.  He serves as captain of three teams at Cranston East – tennis, soccer and the JROTC Drill squad.

Lenk has faced – and conquered – what may be his biggest challenge this fall. He is the only senior on a Bolts’ soccer team that is otherwise filled with underclassmen. The Bolts lost nearly a dozen players from last year’s squad which won the regular season title and reached the D-II quarterfinals before suffering a heart-breaking, season-ending 1-0 loss to Mt. Pleasant..

Joe Lenk SoccerDespite losing 11 players and starting the season in the middle of the Coronavirus pandemic, the Bolts are off to a great start. East currently leads its subdivision in Division II. The unbeaten Bolts recorded a huge win on Saturday, defeating arch rival Cranston West, 2-1. In doing so, East improved to 2-0-1 on the season.

“We are the youngest team in the league. Joe’s leadership is a big reason we have been successful. No question,” said Cranston East coach Richard Grenier, the 2019 Division II Coach of the Year.

With a brand new, young team attempting to bond in the middle of the Coronavirus pandemic, Lenk could have gone easy on the young squad in an attempt to slowly build the young team.

He refused. The advice his grandfather had given him as a youngster prevailed.

“You have to keep working…you have to practice when no one else is practicing…play when no one is watching. You have to work harder than everyone else to get better in anything you do,” said Lenk.

Cranston East Tollgate soccer

So even when the spring tennis season was cancelled earlier this year, and it was questionable as to whether there would even be a soccer season, Lenk was hard at work.

“My senior season is special,” said Lenk, a 6’3”, 175 pound sweeper . “Coach Grenier has a lot of expectations for me and I want to deliver them.”

“Joe has been a member of the varsity team the last three years. The improvement he has made from sophomore to junior year when he jumped into the starting line as our sweeper was when our coaching staff saw his passion for the game,” said Grenier. “While he’s been in the program, he has seen a lot of success. We won two division titles and a state championship in Division III. This year, he is our only senior and he has taken what has been thrown at him and has been a great leader. He is fully respected. He’s a type of leader that doesn’t yell. He leads by what he does on the field in games and in practice.“

Lenk leads by example. Instead of being disappointed that the pandemic cancelled his tennis season last spring and impacted the soccer season with a shortened schedule, he took the opportunity to use the extra free time to improve.

Joe Lenk tennis

The Bolts’ No. 1 singles player who was named captain when he was just a sophomore played tennis five days a week this summer, often with his grandfather, who is still a competitive player into his 70s.

Lenk also worked on his soccer skills in the off season.

“If you want to be good you have to work, push yourself …a pandemic is actually the perfect time to work on certain things to improve on. For soccer you can work on your ball handling. You can go to a park by yourself and work. For tennis, you can go out and work on your serve. You have months to perfect your skills so that when restrictions are lifted you’re at the top of your game and not one of the kids who sharpen your skills and try to get in shape in the middle of the season. “

That is the message he has been giving the Bolts’ underclassmen since they met for volunteer captains practice prior to the season.

“We held volunteer training sessions. We weren’t sure if we were going to have a season so the younger kids weren’t pushing themselves. I told them you can’t be lazy even if we were in the middle of a pandemic. I had to keep reiterating that we may not have a season, but if we do, you have to push yourself in the summer so you are at the top of your game if we do have a season. I told them how important it was especially because we’re a young team. We needed everyone’s skill set. Everyone needs everyone to be in shape at the start of the season if we had a season.”

And now the Bolts do have a season, and Lenk’s leadership and the work ethic he has instilled into his young squad are paying off.

“We have a young team. I have to keep their confidence up. “My biggest role is to keep the guys going, keep their skills sharpened and keep them on their feet.  I told them we weren’t going to have success if we didn’t push ourselves. We have to keep working,” said Lenk.

Just like his grandfather taught him.

JOE LENK LEADS HIS CRANSTON EAST SOCCER TEAM VS TOLL GATE HIGH SCHOOL TUESDAY, OCTOBER 27 LIVE AT 4PM ON COX’S YURVIEW CHANNEL 4 AND STREAMING HERE.