Unsung Hero: Tim Smith refs 1500th game

Published: Feb. 8, 2023 at 9:47 PM EST
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(WNDU) - Being a high school referee is a thankless job. Often, if they’re talked about, it’s not in a happy tone.

But the referees in Michiana need some love and the spotlight when people like Tim Smith reach career milestones.

Since 1979, this is where you’ll find Smith: On the sideline doing what he loves.

“I played one year at Goshen College in basketball, but after that, I didn’t want to play anymore,” Smith said. “But I wanted to stay close to basketball, so I started officiating.”

Smith has been a part of some big games on the sidelines, working in seven State Finals for the IHSAA. And he’s even gotten the chance to see some NBA talent before anyone else.

“Then at Concord, Shawn Kemp, everyone remembers him,” Smith said. “Rick Fox at Warsaw. Loud crowd. Could hardly hear your whistle some of the time, but it was fun.”

Smith is used to refereeing big games throughout his 44-year career. But one game a couple weeks ago was extra special. Smith refereed his 1500th boys varsity basketball game, a career highlight for most, but just another game for Smith.

“It’s another game,” he said. “Also, you can’t get too high, you can’t get too low when you work 75,80 games a year.”

For Smith, being a referee has always been about teaching the game to the younger generation. The teaching doesn’t stop at the players, even Smith’s peers learned everything about being a ref from him.

“Great mentor; he mentored myself,” said fellow referee Eric Coburn. “And continued educating us in getting better in officiating. "

And it’s reasons like that which made being a referee so memorable for Smith.

“Knowing that I have a part in teaching them the game,” Smith said. “And just mentoring them and giving them confidence to move on to Regional, Semi-State, and State Finals. That probably means more than anything else.”

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