Kenneth Nash Jr. on far left of the photo (credit: Kenneth Nash Jr.)
Sports officials nowadays are under scrutiny with the advancements in camerawork and the growth of sports on a global scale. When the final whistle blows, they go back to their lives of trying to support their families for their passion of being a referee.
But for 30-year NCAA division 1 referee Kenneth Nash Jr., the highs and lows for basketball officiating was something he has dreamt of doing since his first officiating days as a 13-year-old.
“Knowing that you are good at something and being confident is something that I have always felt that I belonged,” Nash Jr. said. “I always felt like I belonged, even at 14.”
His passion for officiating at a young age has helped him create an officiating group for kids for the Saddleback Valley Unified School District. He encourages young officials to get involved in a “safe space” the district provides for young referees looking to develop skills from NCAA qualified officials.
“The one hurdle if you become a professional referee, is trying to find a career that supports your avocation,” Nash Jr. said. “A lot of officials are teachers and you know lawyers, so I had to find an opportunity that would provide me with some flexibility to be able to work remotely and still be able to get around as I moved up.”
Kenny wants children in the community to get themselves involved with their interests, like officiating, at a young age and to stick with it. He harps on trying to figure out what you can do and to try and think outside of the box without any limitations. And throughout the many jobs he has worked throughout his career, from working at chase bank to selling smoothies and now owning multiple jerky stores, Kenny always seems to fall back on his first love officiating basketball.
“I never feel like I have ever worked a day in my life because I have found something I am passionate about,” Nash Jr. said. “I love doing it, so it’s not work.”
Kenneth Nash always saw himself being successful in all of his actions, not only officiating. He learned how to run a business under the wing of his Uncle, who had a window covering company. He took what he learned from his uncle and put it into a Juice It Up franchise in Cerritos.
All of his business endeavors were built around him being sports officiating lifestyle. His entrepreneurial spirit has brought him to his own business, The Jerky Zone, where he has a location opening in Laguna Hills and also sells his products in local gas stations as well as online.
Kenneth also speaks highly of his work for fundraising for school programs in California and Oklahoma, ranging from elementary schools to high schools. He has raised approximately $20,000 from his businesses for men’s and women’s basketball and school programs.
“I don’t know work is work, but, for me, it is fun to see people smile and help people raise funds,” Nash Jr. says. “You look at me, and you think, man, he eats beef jerky.”
Within his long officiating career, Kenneth Nash has been called everything in the book when it comes to heckling. He emphasizes his own and colleagues’ importance on just getting the calls right. If he and his partners do their best, he feels there is nothing people can argue.
“People just forget that referees put their pants on like every other human being every morning,” he said. “We deal with life situations, but yet we still put all that aside and do their job. That is what the good ones are able to do, and that is why they stand out.”
Through all of his sales and work in the SVUSD Community Services, Kenny still is on the road for the majority of the basketball season and has to work away from home with his wife and two kids. He iterates that if people knew how much work officials put in, they would be respected more.
“I was doing some of that scheduling for myself this morning, and from Wednesday from Sunday, I am on the road,” Nash Jr. said.
The pluses of being an official for Kenneth may be small, but being able to enjoy summers with his family, sometimes getting beach houses for over a week. For him, the work is hard, but because it is what he loves, he doesn’t see his Jerky business, SVUSD community services involvement, or officiating as a job, but something to enjoy every second of doing.
The Jerky Zone fundraising for schools, with some of their jerky products.