- Associated Press - Saturday, February 7, 2015

HASTINGS, Neb. (AP) - Finding the best seat in the house to watch Hastings High School athletics has never been a problem for Julie Klein.

Klein, 59, began scoring basketball games while her son - Steven Jr. - played at St. Cecilia in the late 1990s.

As longtime activities secretary at Hastings High, she continues to score games for sports across the board, doing so the past decade with her husband, Steven, lending a hand beside her.

“This is what I do for fun,” the wife and mother of three grown children said. “I truly like anything that has to do with activities.”

Klein never played sports at Hastings High herself, at least not competitively. The school had no girls athletic program at that time. But she attended the boys basketball games with regularity, getting a rush out of being so close to the action in the decidedly more intimate south gym, where games were played at that time.

“It was very close,” she remembers. “You were right there in the middle of the action, so to speak. The north gym they play in today is close, too, but this was just a little more intense.”

She has kept books for literally hundreds of games through the years, logging statistics for the school’s basketball, softball and soccer programs while running clock for the wrestling team. And while she enjoys all sports, her first love remains basketball.

“I could watch basketball any day, any time,” she said. “When you are scoring a game, you have a front-row seat. You get to see and hear everything that’s going on right there on the floor. It’s the best place in the world!

“Two of my favorite sounds in the whole world are the sound of squeaking shoes on the basketball court and the sound of metal hitting a ball. One reminds me of spring, the other reminds me of basketball.”

Both she and her husband are season ticketholders for Nebraska Cornhuskers baseball and basketball games. Rare is the time they miss a game.

When they aren’t watching the Cornhuskers play, the couple can usually be found taking in boys junior varsity basketball games at Bellevue West, where Steven Jr., their oldest son, coaches. One of her proudest moments as a parent was watching the Thunderbirds’ varsity team win the state championship in 2014.

A staunchly competitive supporter of whichever team she happens to be rooting for on a given night, she finds that scoring a game enables her to keep a more objective distance than on those occasions when she’s simply there to watch. And that distraction can sometimes be a real blessing, particularly when things get heated on the court.

“As a mom, scoring the game helps me sit there quietly and watch,” she said. “I’m not always the best fan when I go to my son’s games at Bellevue. I do much better when I have something to do.”

Having borne witness to the playing careers of hundreds of students - many, from freshman to senior years - has given her a greater appreciation for the importance of sports and the role it plays in educating students.

She disagrees with those who regard athletics as little more than a distraction to participants who must strive to maintain both grades and competitive edge.

“I think sports is very important to schools,” she said. “There has always been talk that we need to not have sports because it’s too expensive and an extracurricular-type thing, but I’ve seen a lot of kids who’ve made it through high school because they had sports. It’s definitely an extension of the classroom - and important.”


Information from: Hastings Tribune, https://www.hastingstribune.com

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