By Kate Crutcher
O’FALLON – For 22 years, Mike Imes has been coaching students about the finer points of a game he loves, bowling. Imes is now being honored for spreading the love of the game by being inducted into the Southern Illinois High School Bowling Conference Hall of Fame.
Prior to his retirement, Imes served in the United States Air Force as a Senior Master Sergeant. He also bowled regularly at St. Clair Bowl. After he retired from the service, he was asked to return to the lanes, not as a bowler, but as a coach for O’Fallon Township High School’s program.
“Unless people have done it and come out to see how hard it is, they don’t realize that there is some knowledge and hand eye coordination that goes hand and hand with bowling,” Imes said.
Each year brings new students to Coach Imes’s teams. In fact, Imes is now coaching some of the children of his first and second year students that he taught back in the ‘90s.
“OTHS is just a big part of The High School Bowling Program and they were one of the first schools to enter. They are one of the reasons that this program is so successful,” Imes said.
Founded in 1996, the High School Bowling Program started with only eight teams. Today there are over 25 teams.
The team has practices two days a week, with two matches the same week. Imes has had several students come and go through the program who then go on to bowl for universities and even nationals. Some have even gone off to join in the Air Force. Imes feels like he has made a difference in his students lives and could not be more proud of them.
“Watching them mature and grow to become better bowlers is where I get my satisfaction to have such a great group of students come together,” Imes said.
On Tuesday, March 5, Imes was inducted into the Southern Illinois High School Bowling Conference Hall of Fame. He was recognized as an Ambassador, along with his service as the boys bowling coach. He was also recognized for his accomplishments on building the program from the ground up and maintaining it for over two decades.
Imes was awarded with a coin that was specially made. Only members who get inducted into the Southern Illinois High School Bowling Conference Hall of Fame receive this coin.
“Phil Kammann was the one that hired me and he got all the support to get the high school program going. Matt Shelladarger, was also someone who helped assist me to make the high school bowling conference happen. Phil was the previous owner when I first started coaching and then his son-in-law, that’s Matt, bought it and took over. Their funding is what made this program so successful and I just want to thank both of them,” Imes said.
Aside from coaching boys bowling at OTHS, Imes serves as the current Youth Director at St. Clair Bowl.