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Refereeing Magic City Classic considered a family affair for one Laurel household

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Posted at 6:11 PM, Apr 28, 2024

BILLINGS — Around 3,000 people visited Billings Amend Park this weekend for the Stockman Bank Magic City Classic. The soccer tournament has seen immense growth in the last couple of years, with coordinators fearing there wouldn't be enough referees. But one Laurel family is supplying as much help as they can, as four out of six in the household are referees.

“For about eight or ten years, we always had 120 teams. Last year we had 176, this year we have 196 with a fairly long waiting list,” said Billings United Soccer administrative coordinator, Terry Stapleton on Sunday.

It's clear that love for the sport is growing as players, family members, and volunteers from Wyoming, the Dakotas, and across the state utilized every inch of Amend Park.

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“Even if we found a bigger space, referees. It’s hard to find enough referees,” Stapleton said.

Many of these refs, like 17-year-old Samuel Christiansen, are teenagers.

“It’s a little nerve wracking at the start. Trying to figure out if you’re doing things right. But once you get on to it, it’s easier,” said Christiansen.

He isn't the only Christiansen calling the shots on the field.

“So, my dad’s been doing it for a while, and then he got me into it. And then this year my sister and my brother are into it,” Christiansen added.

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Ruth, Olivia, Jacob, and Samuel Christiansen

The oldest of four, Samuel's 15-year-old brother Jacob and 13-year-old sister Olivia are referees as well. Their youngest sister, 12-year-old Ruth, is competing in the classic this year.

It's Olivia's first time being on this side of the sport.

“You see everything a little different and you have to make the calls instead of listen to them,” said Olivia.

She said it's a little easier knowing her whole family is there to cheer the siblings on.

“They’re there to support you and it’s fun to have them there and to encourage you with feedback,” Olivia added.

“I think it’s probably pretty great that we’re doing it. They’re [my parents] probably glad that we’re out of the house," joked Christiansen.