Lehigh men’s soccer head coach Dean Koski was looking for a new assistant coach to help him elevate the program. He decided Lee Bakewell, head coach for Pen Argyl High School’s girls’ varsity soccer team, was the best fit for the role.
Koski said hiring a coach from approximately half an hour away from Bethlehem was mutually beneficial for both parties.
“(Bakewell) wanted to explore possibilities of getting into college soccer and was involved in youth soccer for a number of years,” Koski said. “The more I got to know him and the more I spoke with him, the more I realized that he would be a good fit to our program.”
Lee Bakewell is originally from England, where he attended Coventry University and earned a computer science degree.
Blackwell said coaching was not necessarily the career path he imagined for himself, but it has been something he has loved since he started.
“I realized during the process of my university degree that I wanted to do something with a greater impact and something I would be passionate about,” Bakewell said. “It ultimately led to me to seek an opportunity to travel and coach in the states.”
Bakewell said his journey to the United States was unconventional. He first moved to California, where he ran soccer camps and clinics, before moving to New Jersey, where he started his coaching career as the director for the youth club team TSF Academy.
Bakewell’s girlfriend, Rhianna Kneebone, works in the Material Science and Engineering Department at Lehigh, which he said was a big incentive for him to take up the job.
Before moving to Bethlehem, Bakewell and Kneebone moved to Bangor, Pennsylvania, in 2019. This is when his relationship with Koski began that eventually led to a job offer.
Bakewell said he ultimately chose Lehigh because the university and its soccer program checked a number of his boxes, including location, quality of people and the program’s history.
“It was a case of finding a role that helps me really develop and grow the game in this region and close to home,” Bakewell said. “It also creates excellent opportunities for me to develop and grow and contribute to a program that has great meaning and impact on people.”
He said his prior experience at TSF Academy and Pen Argyl will bear fruitful for his new job at Lehigh.
Junior midfielder Nolan Jetter said Bakewell’s coaching style is tough but fair — something he thinks his team needs because it “gets guys going.”
During a practice when the team played a small scrimmage, Jetter’s team was down a player, with seven compared to his opponent’s eight. Jetter said when a defender on his team stopped playing defense because he thought he was fouled, Bakewell made the players do sprints as a consequence.
“After doing sprints, he brought us in and told us ‘Life’s not fair. You’re dealt the cards you’re dealt and you’re not losing because you’re down a man, you’re losing because of your attitude’s not right,’” Jetter said. “We turned it around and scored a goal, and it felt really good. I think that sums up the type of coach he is and what he brings to the program.”
Jetter said the team has recognized the intent behind Bakewell’s messaging as a means of making them better players.
Koski said he wants to present the team with a strong coaching staff. He said he is happy to have Bakewell’s assistance as he shows a commitment to learning and developing players.
“The more voices we have, the more interesting it becomes to them because they have to respond to a different coaching style and they might have to adapt,” Koski said.
The Lehigh men’s soccer team is currently in the offseason. Their spring play will start with a scrimmage on March 26 at home against Princeton.