LACETT | Kentucky high school basketball referee approaches 60 y - WDRB 41 Louisville News

LACETT | Kentucky high school basketball referee approaches 60 years on the court

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BEDFORD, Ky. (WDRB) – From a little log cabin in Bedford, Kentucky, the secret to enjoying retirement is all figured out.

“If you are going to retire, you better have something to do,” James Stethen said.

In fact, the 80-year-old Bedford native has a lot to do. Sixteen years retired from his job at an Indiana power plant, he stays active with a two-mile walk every day.

But that is just to keep him in shape for his real passion.

“Every time I walk on the court, I try to do my best,” Stethen said.

And his best has kept him in the game as a high school referee in Kentucky for 57 years.

“He’s earned the respect of everyone,” Jeff Afterkirk said. “We look up to him.”

It’s not to see why. What’s also not hard to see is Stethen’s passion for the sport of basketball.

“It’s amazing what these kids can do,” he marvels. “Twenty years ago, you never saw a kid dunk. Now there is hardly a team that doesn’t dunk.”

And there’s hardly a call that Stethen misses. Even after all these years, Stethen still prides himself on getting it right.

“If I make the wrong call, I’m taking something away from that kid, and I’m giving it to someone that didn’t want it that way,” Stethen said.

Twenty minutes before tipoff between Collins and Christian Academy on Friday, Stethen goes over some final notes with the captains from both teams. He is polite but he gets his message across.

“It’s his demeanor. He is always calm cool and collected,” Afterkirk said.  “He doesn’t get upset, and he lets the kids play the game.”

That was evident over the course of the action Friday. Stethen was always solid, never the show.

“The game is for the kid,” he said. “Not the coaches or the referees. It’s for the kids.”

As long as Stethen patrols the sidelines, he’ll make sure it stays that way.

“If I feel like I can do the job I’m supposed to do, then I’ll keep on.”

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