Maya Hood on motherhood

After five years of playing for the University of San Diego women’s basketball team, Maya Hood was named WCC Defender of the Year and second-team All-WCC. Hood leads the team in scoring, rebounds, and steals, averaging 18.1 points and 8.1 rebounds. Despite this success, basketball is not what motivates her.

According to Hood, it is her “crazy, loving, smart, energetic child, Elijah.”

Hood was a sophomore when she found out she was pregnant. As any young adult who receives unexpected news may feel, she was nervous to tell those who influenced her the most: her coaches and her parents.

“I was super nervous to tell my coaches and my parents,” Hood said. “When I did tell my coaches, they were super supportive of me. They definitely wanted me to have him, and they supported me in any decision I made, but, ultimately, they wanted me to have my son.”

As a single mother, Hood is supported by her immediate family. Her parents live in Mira Mesa, and her sister, Malina, also attended USD and played on the basketball team. Malina graduated in Spring 2016. They were all in close proximity to lend a hand.

According to Hood, an overwhelming support system started to form before she even gave birth to Elijah. Hood recalled her roommate, a USD volleyball player, would make sure that she was resting enough during her pregnancy. She also had help from her professors.

“It was a rough time because finals were coming up, but, going into the fall semester, I had to tell all my teachers upfront what was going on,” Hood said. “I had to tell them I was expecting a son in November. Most of the professors I had were super supportive and flexible. Having those professors really helped me. I am really thankful for them.”

On Nov. 26, 2013, Hood gave birth to her son, Elijah Alexander Ayala. While Hood was recovering and adjusting to her new role as a mother, her teammates, friends, and classmates would keep her up to date on what she missed. Hood was able to make it back to classes for her finals less than a month after giving birth. After having Elijah, she took a year off of basketball only to return more motivated than ever.

It has been three years now since having Elijah, and Hood said she has adjusted to her many roles well but not without struggle.

“There have been times where I had to stay up all night because my son was sick, then go to school in the morning, take a test, and [play] basketball,” Hood said. “Most of the time, I am tired, but it’s worth it because he is absolutely everything to me. He is my world. Knowing that I created this little human definitely gets me through the day.”

Hood shared that there were times she had to bring her son to practice or one of her teammates would watch him while she attended class. The old phrase “it takes a village” applies here, only in Hood’s case it takes a team.

One of the hardest parts for Hood has been traveling for basketball. Luckily, her parents are able to take care of Elijah, so she could play in every game. Hood admitted it is tough leaving her son, but her family, coaches, and her team help push her through.

“Things like [support from my family and friends] I cannot really take for granted,” Hood said. “I am just so blessed and honored to have the people around me supporting me throughout the process. I think going to school and having a kid is such a challenge, but I would not take it back at all.”

Some day she would like to pay it forward and use her story to reach out to other student atheletes who become parents in college. Hood explained that she hopes to use her experience to motivate others and show them that you can be an athlete, student, and parent.

“One of my things down the line is I want to talk to student athletes who have been or are in this situation and talk about my experience,” Hood said. “I want other women to know it is definitely a struggle, but, in the end, when you see your child and you see how happy they are, it is all worth it.”

Having a child is not easy for even the most prepared adult. Having a child as a college student is even more difficult, but Hood was able to balance basketball, school, and being a mom. She admitted she bobbled a few times, but also remembered what was important.

“Having a son who is always in the back of my mind, is my motivation,” Hood said. “I push through the hard days knowing he is there. I have somebody else that I have to worry about, and it’s not all about me. Making sure that I focus on that and that it is going to be worth it in the end. My biggest thing is it can be done. I know I am not the first, and I will not be the last person in this situation. I do not want women to feel judged or ashamed. You are definitely strong enough, and you can do it. Do not give up, do not lose hope.”

Hood recently graduated in the fall, and ended her basketball season early when she tore her ACL her meniscus on her right knee on a Dec. 12 game against Seattle University. She is recovering quickly, but is unsure if she will be eligible to play in the 2017-2018 season. In the meantime, Hood can still be found around campus getting her master’s degree in leadership or shooting hoops with Elijah.

“[Elijah] has a love for sports,” Hood said. “We usually shoot on his little hoop together on home. He can spend hours and hours shooting on his basket, it’s the cutest thing. I would love for him to follow in my footsteps one day.”

While Hood awaits the verdict on her college basketball career, she can rest assured knowing that she created her own legacy at USD.

“Being a mom and a student athlete is something I will have forever, and it is something that will never be taken away from me,” Hood said. “I am creating my legacy. I am trying to set an example for the next person who thinks they can’t do it and show them that you can.”

Written by: Jennifer Givens, Assistant Feature Editor