PLAINFIELD – When Ron Lear formed the Morris girls bowling tournament 27 years ago, he had big plans for the event, and it became something special.
All these years later, the 1976 Morris graduate has the same philosophy in his approach as Plainfield North’s athletic director. He’s in his ninth year, with hopes that the Tigers will keep building on their early successes to do even bigger things in the future.
While he’s pretty sure that he’s the first Illinois bowling coach to become an AD, it’s a good bet he’s also one of the few who had worked for about 20 years in a grocery store.
Growing up in a great sports town such as Morris definitely lit a fire in him to stay involved in athletics. And he had good counseling there from his baseball coach, Ken Shultz, who was inducted into a national hall of fame as athletic director at Homewood-Flossmoor.
He coached girls bowling and started up the boys and girls soccer programs during his 15 years of coaching at Morris. He joined the staff at North when it opened in 2006 as an assistant athletic director and head girls bowling coach and led that for six years before taking over as the school’s athletic director in the middle of the 2010-11 season.
“When you become an AD, the one thing you really miss is being with the kids on a day-to-day basis,” said Lear, who finished as the second-winningest girls bowling coach in IHSA history with 422 wins. “You’re with them, but you deal with so many administrative things, so you really miss that one-on-one with the kids every day. Keeping up the bowling tournament keeps me in the game and I’m still trying to promote that sport, which is tough. So we’re in Year 27 for that and it’s the still the best in Illinois and we’re very proud of that.
“I was born and raised in Morris and the sports culture was extremely strong. When I played, we had the Little 7 Conference and many times Morris was one of the smaller schools. We knew if we were going to be the best, we had to beat the best and had that philosophy across the board. I had a great run, but I always wanted to be an athletic director from the time that I was in high school. In 2005, when my youngest son graduated from high school, I knew I was ready to move on into administration and a new school opened in Plainfield.”
Lear took advice from many good athletic directors when he was working as the assistant AD and realized that it benefited him for future advancement.
“In my five-plus years as an assistant AD, I tried to learn as much as I could and I leaned on different people, and one of my biggest mentors was Kent Irvin from Lockport,” said Lear, who is an Illinois Athletic Directors Association certified athletic administrator. “Kent really helped me to learn a lot when I had a lot of things being thrown me at North.
“The reason that I waited as long as I did is that in this job, if you’re going to do it right, you basically live at the school. I’m extremely lucky to have a wife who is understanding since I’m not home much. But I’ve been happily married for 38 years to my wife, Kim. If you don’t have that great person behind you, it’s going to be tough to do this job. I give these young guys a lot of credit since I can’t imagine balancing my kids games with doing this job.”
The only new fall head coach is football coach Anthony Imbordino, who played and coached at Plainfield Central under John Jackson and also assisted at Romeoville and Oswego. He takes over for Tim Kane, who coached 13 years and had a state runner-up team in 2016.
Other Tigers coaches are Steve Berry (boys soccer), Andrew Derks (boys cross country), Caitlin Dodge (girls tennis), Tammy Gummerson (girls cross country), Mike Kneip (boys golf), George Sam (girls swimming), Jonathan Seibert (girls golf) and Matthew Slechta (girls volleyball).