Sports

Meridian family of five has refereed more than 300 soccer games this season

Amaya Hotchkiss (front left seat), Nicole Steiner (front right), Miranda Hotchkiss (middle right), Jason Steiner (back left) and Kayla Steiner (back right) had refereed a combined 821 soccer games in their careers as of Thursday night. Evan Scaraglino (middle left), Amaya's boyfriend, has gotten into the act, too.
Amaya Hotchkiss (front left seat), Nicole Steiner (front right), Miranda Hotchkiss (middle right), Jason Steiner (back left) and Kayla Steiner (back right) had refereed a combined 821 soccer games in their careers as of Thursday night. Evan Scaraglino (middle left), Amaya's boyfriend, has gotten into the act, too.

Amaya Hotchkiss was like everyone else at her soccer games.

"When you're playing, you kind of get this mindset of, 'The referee is wrong,' " she said.

Then she became one.

Hotchkiss, 16, is the youngest member of a five-referee household in Meridian. Her mom, Nicole Steiner; her stepdad, Jason Steiner; her sister, 17-year-old Miranda Hotchkiss; and Jason's daughter, 18-year-old Kayla Steiner, also work as soccer referees.

The family had worked 309 games this season through Thursday — and they were expecting a busy weekend for the State Cup. They work everything from youth games to adult rec leagues. Nicole even works college games.

"No one is ever there to support the ref," Amaya said. "Us being family out there is cool."

The Steiner-Hotchkiss quintent plays soccer, too. They started reffing when four of the five took a class together. Miranda, the initial holdout, has been the busiest referee of the teens this season.

"We just saw there was a need for more refs," Nicole said. "... We love the soccer community. It's pretty small actually, so you know everybody. We get a lot of exercise. It's a great job for kids. We tell our kids: 'There's no other job where you get paid to exercise and make the kind of money we're making.' "

Nicole and Jason referee as a hobby — the money is a bonus. But the girls have made refereeing their primary jobs, with Miranda making about $2,000 this season.

"I'm so proud of my kids," Nicole said. "They're such good refs. They know their stuff."

That still doesn't prevent some obnoxious fans or coaches from criticizing the teenagers. They've been pushed to tears at times, Nicole said.

"We lose a lot of refs every year because these kids — they're out there making $15 and they're getting screamed at by grown men about a call," she said. "They just quit. That's the dark side we try not to talk about. It's shocking sometimes the things people will say to you."

Nicole tries to use her knowledge of the game to explain why some of those complaints are unfounded, so maybe the next referee doesn't have to hear it.

Amaya takes the other approach.

"Pretty much just ignore them," she said. "There's no point in trying to argue with people."

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