It is with great sadness that we advise the passing of Softball NZ and CSA Life Member Lyndsey Leask QSM.
A wonderful mentor, administrator and friend to many throughout the sporting world. She was the Matriarch of both NZ Softball and Canterbury Softball giving at every level of the game. This is a great loss to our sport. Tony Smith has penned a fitting tribute to the person we all knew and loved.....
Former New Zealand Softball Association president Lyndsey Leask will be remembered forever as one of our ablest softball administrators and a steadfast champion of the women’s game and secondary schools softball.
Lyndsey – the manager of New Zealand’s world champion women’s team in 1982 - became the NZSA’s first female president in 1993, a banner year in which New Zealand celebrated the 100th anniversary of becoming the first nation to grant votes to women.
She brought to the role great intelligence, a sense of fair play and practical common sense, plus 25 years of service as a NZSA councillor and extensive experience as a player, coach, manager and administrator at club, provincial and national levels.
Lyndsey’s passion for softball began as a student at Papanui High School, and she became a proud member of the Monowai club.
She was an integral part as a player and administrator and when the Christchurch club dominated the New Zealand domestic scene, winning seven Dustin Cup national titles between 1959 and 1968. She also represented Canterbury as an outfielder.
Lyndsey later coached Canterbury for eight years, coaching them to their first national title in 18 years in 1982. She also found time to serve the Canterbury association as an executive member and secretary and was first elected to the NZSA council in 1968.
She was part of the team management, as publicity officer, when the New Zealand women’s team won their first series in Australia in 1973.
Lyndsey was the team’s assistant manager for the 1974 world championships in Stratford, Connecticut, having successfully campaigned for the position to be upgraded from chaperone.
She took over as team manager in 1977 and soon forged a successful rapport with head coach Ed Dolejs. Together, they took New Zealand to their first women’s world championship medal – bronze – at the 1978 world championships in El Salvador.
Lyndsey remained in charge for the 1982 world championships in Taiwan, where New Zealand won a memorable gold medal. Her colourful, comprehensive reports of the ’78 and ’82 tours made delightful reading.
A Burnside High School commercial teacher, Lyndsey started the Burnside club in 1972 with the late Gavin Britt, a former softballer and inspirational intermediate school art teacher and coach. Under her wing, Burnside became New Zealand softball champions, supplying Robyn Storer and Jane Earnshaw to the 1982 world series gold medal team. She also took great pride at seeing former Burnside High and Burnside club charges such as Helen Townsend and Mandy Karatau graduate to the White Sox.
Lyndsey was also a superb tournament organiser, at club level where she set up a Burnside pre-season tournament, which ran for several years, to national tournaments and the international scene.
Her passion to get more international women’s softball in New Zealand led to her creating the Pan Am Classic mini-series, which brought the top nations in the world to our shores in the 1980s and provided New Zealand with vital match-play before world series.
Lyndsey served as NZSA vice-president to Ray Weaver for 10 years before taking over his role in 1993. The NZSA was restructured into Softball New Zealand in 1996 with a board led by a chairperson. Lyndsey remained in the ceremonial president role until 1998 and served as patron to 2001 before retiring after 33 years’ continual service to the national body.
When she stepped down as president, Softball NZ chair Dale Eagar said: “Lyndsey has worked tirelessly for the betterment of the sport and its most important component, the players. As president, she’s been extraordinarily easy to work with. She’ll certainly leave a hole when it comes to performing the huge number of functions she’s done over the last few years.’’
Lyndsey also served for many years on the International Softball Federation and was appointed to the technical committee for the first Olympic Games softball tournament in Columbus, Georgia in 1996, such was her standing in the game.
While Lyndsey never sought personal honours, she was awarded a QSM (Queen’s Service Medal) by the NZ Government in 1986 and later became a NZ Softball life member. She was inducted into the World Softball Hall of Fame in 1999 and the Softball NZ Hall of Fame in 2016.
After stepping down from her national and international roles, Lyndsey remained an active softball follower and a mentor to up and coming administrators.
While Lyndsey was always strong advocate for women’s softball at the NZSA council table, she also took great delight at the New Zealand men’s team’s success and the progress of national junior sides.
Using her organising skills and education sector contacts, Lyndsey was instrumental in starting the popular national secondary school softball tournaments from the early 1980s.
Her name will live on with national secondary school teams playing for the Lyndsey Leask Trophy, a fitting legacy to a woman who devoted her life to the game.
Safe Journey Lyndsey, rest well.