High school basketball referee with autism encourages others with disabilities to follow their dreams

Published: Feb. 15, 2021 at 1:24 PM CST|Updated: Feb. 15, 2021 at 4:35 PM CST
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WICHITA, Kan. (Catch it Kansas) - You won’t find anyone on the basketball court who loves the game more than 22-year-old referee Will Fried.

“I just always wanted to stay around the game of basketball to honor the game of basketball which helped me grow as a person and come out of my shell,” Fried said.

Ask him why he loves the game and he has several answers.

“I like just the enthusiasm from the sport, how coaches out there can go and create their own innovative offenses, the high speed of the game and seeing exciting shots go through the net,” he said.

But more than anything, basketball gave Fried confidence as an autistic child.

“When I was 10 I began as a camper at Duke Basketball Camp, which is Coach K’s camp and I always enjoyed the pride and joy of being around the game even when I wasn’t the best player at times,” Fried said.

Fried said he was not always the best player, but now he’s determined to become the best referee he can be.

Fried first put on the uniform five years ago to officiate intermural games in college. After moving to Kansas from Maryland to attend graduate school at Fort Hays State University in August, he started officiating middle and high school games.

“The best thing I have gotten to do here in Kansas was officiate some players on the autism spectrum which has been a dream of mine to do,” Fried said. “I wasn’t able to make my high school and middle school basketball teams, but my time has passed and it’s important to see how inclusion has advanced in our county. The coaches I’ve talked to and officiated here want to include them on their teams as much as possible.”

In overcoming his own obstacles, Fried hopes to inspire others with a disability that they can accomplish whatever they set their mind to.

“People with disabilities have strengths just as people that don’t have disabilities,” he said. “People with disabilities work hard, they fight and they have the courage to do what they want to do.”

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