An Oxford High School coach known for producing bowlers with talent to spare is being given an honor few Michigan coaches ever receive.
Claude “J.R.” Lafnear was named by the Michigan High School Coaches Association (MHSCA) as its Coach of the Year. The honor singles Lafnear out from every other high school sports coach in state.
Each year, the coach is chosen through both accomplishment and nomination from his or her peers.
“I don’t disrespect stuff like this, and I feel very honored that our program is being recognized,” Lafnear said. “I’m still a little bit in awe of the whole thing.”
Lafnear has been with the program since its start in 2005 and is proud of how far it has come. Last season, he led both the boys’ and girls’ teams to state finals. A few of the boys performed well individually at states, while the girls’ team took home the gold.
Lafnear said he was humbled to have been chosen for the award and thinks it is not a reflection of himself, but of the bowling program. He says the program starts with middle schoolers, and the training those students receive at a younger age is a big reason why he is able to have such success with the high school teams.
“I think the consistency the program has shown over the last four or five years, both on the boys’ and the girls’ sides, contributed to (my receiving this recognition),” he said. “Our boys are OAA champs five times in a row and our girls have always been very competitive. In 2017, they were state runner-ups.”
Lafnear is already looking forward to this next season, saying the team was ready for the next season the moment they stepped out of the alley after states. With bowling being such a social sport, both teams are tight-knit and look forward to getting to know other players during matches.
“Not only is it very social amongst our team, but our team socializes well with other schools and other programs,” he said. “It was very gratifying at the state championship last year to see some of the people from Davison, Farmington and Lake Orion. We had a couple of the schools rooting for us. You know, they’re our rival on the lanes, but off the lanes, we become friends.”
Lafnear and other award winners from the last academic year will be honored on Nov. 11 at the Ramada Lansing Hotel and Conference Center in Lansing.