While their playing days might be over, the lessons Hancock County’s community leaders learned on the sports fields continue to guide them today. In this week-long series, we look back on the positive effect athletics had on their lives.
GREENFIELD – “When I get back, we’ll play a game.”
Those words have lived with Tim Retherford every day since March of 1981.
Before traveling to Buffalo, New York, for leukemia treatment, Tim Retherford’s father offered up that brief reassurance to his six-year-old son, who was standing outside of the family’s Greentown, Indiana, home, basketball in hand.
“Unfortunately our game is on hold,” said Retherford, whose father lost his battle with leukemia on April 1, 1981. “But we will play that game one day in heaven.”
Sons who lose their fathers at a young age often spend the rest of their lives endeavoring to make their departed dads proud.
“I would say it’s had an impact on the decisions I’ve made and the path I’ve taken. I was six, almost 7-years-old, and it’s a hard thing to understand at that age,” Retherford said of his father’s death. “My son is seven, and I can relate to that age. As I’ve gone through my decisions and our decisions as a family, you realize none of us are guaranteed tomorrow. You have to make the most of the time you have here.”
As a sophomore playing junior varsity hoops at Eastern Howard High School in Greentown, Retherford found a mentor in varsity coach Duane Keisling, though Keisling left for an administrative position prior to Retherford’s junior season.
“First and foremost he instilled in the young men in his program that it was important to be a good man first,” Retherford said. “He expected a lot out of his players. His practices were hard, but he cared about each and every one of us. He was teaching us what it took to be successful, not just in basketball, but in life.”
Retherford has focused his life on impacting the lives of youths. As Executive Director for Neighborhoods Against Substance Abuse, Retherford does exactly what his title says – increase awareness and help to prevent substance abuse in Hancock County.
“I do a little bit of everything. We oversee funds and grants that we give out to prevention, treatment and enforcement programs. … I make sure every thing is done report-wise,” offered Retherford, a Greenfield resident. “I work with a high school youth council – that’s the most rewarding part of the job I have. We meet once a month and we also have an adult council that serves as a resource to them. When it comes down to it, with the activities they choose, they think about their impact in regards to substance abuse prevention.”
The Ball State product has also found a way to influence youngsters through the sport he loves – basketball. This upcoming season will be Retherford’s 17th with the Eastern Hancock basketball program. He started as the coach of eighth-grade boys team, but when current varsity coach Aaron Spaulding took over prior to the 1999-00 campaign, Retherford agreed to help Spaulding get the elementary program up and running.
Retherford became a varsity assistant in Spaulding’s second year. Those two, as well as junior varsity coach/varsity assistant Brett Bechtel, will enter their 15th season together this winter.
“Our time together has done more for me than any other athletic experience. We have had very successful seasons and some challenging seasons,” said Retherford, who cited the 2002-03 team’s run to semistate and former EH player Victor Vincz’s 52-point game in Feb. 2012 as two of his most memorable athletic anecdotes. “Every team is different. You have to be both willing and able to adjust what you do on the court to have an opportunity to be successful – much like you do in your job and in your personal life.”
The 40-year-old Retherford knows better than most the unpredictability of life, and vows to be there for his two young children as they grow older and to keep the Retherford Team together.
“Sports, for me, has taught me the importance of being a part of a supporting family,” he said. “So, yes, that means as my kids grow up, it won’t be a question of am I going to their game, their play, their concert (or) their awards ceremony. It will be a simple, ‘How long will it take to get there?’”
Neighborhoods Against Substance Abuse Executive Director
Education: Eastern Howard High School; Ball State University (Undergraduate)
Family: Wife, Debbie; children, Megan (fifth grade), Caleb (first grade)