XENIA — Being named the best young female soccer referee in the midwest hasn’t quite sunk in yet for Maya Ryder.
“Is it a big deal?” the Legacy Christian Academy senior asked when prompted for her reaction.
Ryder, who is also a standout on the Legacy girls’ soccer team, was the Ohio South referee of the year and then was picked by the regional committee as the 14-state midwest young referee of the year.
That puts her in even more elite company as she is one of four finalists for the national young female referee of the year award, which will be announced Monday.
“That’s a big deal, right?” Ryder queried. “That would be crazy, I guess. I think. I never expected to get this far with it.”
But she has. And the 17-year-old did it in a short period of time. Ryder, who began playing soccer when she was five-years-old, became a referee when she was just 13. Her mother, Laura Snyder, also signed up to become a referee.
And it wasn’t too long before Ryder was the center official, responsible for game control including calling all fouls. Most recently she was selected to attend the 2019 Midwest Regional Championships of the National Cup Series and received very positive reviews of her work at the event according to the Ohio South Youth Soccer Association website.
Ryder’s ability and willingness to improve each game was a big reason she received several nomination letters sent to BJ Jabbari, the state youth referee administrator.
“Since her beginning as a soccer referee in 2016, Maya has shown a keen interest in understanding both the how’s and the why’s of officiating soccer,” one letter read. “Beyond the regimented book learning that the law of the game requires, she has displayed a track record of continued self-improvement, a process that incorporates both her asking more senior officials for external feedback as well as the internalization of these critiques and the honest self-evaluation of her officiating performances. Maya’s want to get better led to the confidence and capacity to referee as a center official within her first year of refereeing.”
Another cited Ryder’s character.
“She is a young woman who conducts her life with honesty and integrity, and I believe she is a worthy recipient of this award,” the letter read. “Maya’s character shines on the field. She has a compassionate heart and can often be seen helping an opponent up from a fall or chatting with a defender on the field. Even though she is a fierce competitor, she has a level head on the field that allows her to show compassion and exercise her values and integrity as well. I can see where this transfers to her being an outstanding referee.”
Of course Ryder still can’t understand all the fuss.
“I just don’t know why it’s a big deal,” she said modestly.
Legacy Athletic Director Bev Moser explained what the ado was about.
“I just think that Maya does her job and does it well,” Moser said.
That’s how she approaches soccer as a player as well.
She started at the urging of her deceased father Justin Ryder.
“He (taught) me to have a mindset to always do your best,” Ryder said. “As I kept getting older I developed more and more skill.”
She was third in the Metro Buckeye Conference with 45 points, scoring 20 goals (tied for third) and recording five assists (tied for ninth) in just 13 games. Ryder scored five goals in a game twice.
Ryder said playing soccer for so long helped make her better referee.
“You usually know where the ball is going next so it helps you with your positioning,” she said. It also has taught her to respect the game officials more.
“I know how they feel or what’s going through their mind,” Ryder said.
Ryder also likes the power that comes with being a referee.
“Being the boss is kind of nice,” she said with a grin. “Any call I make they have to go with. It’s kind of sweet. I’m 17 and I can tell the coach to stop talking to me.”
Ryder has refereed matches of all ages, including U-19 last year. She isn’t certified for high school games. But she wouldn’t mind doing that in the future.
“I think that would be cool, yeah,” she said.
For now she’s focused on finishing Legacy and choosing a college. Ryder has Cedarville University zeroed in on the radar and may consider playing soccer for the Yellow Jackets.
But we will definitely see her on the field as a referee.
“As much as I can,” Ryder said. “I like reffing.”
Even if it comes with what she thinks is inexplicable attention.