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Maya Brady Channels Her Inner Champion

Last Updated: March 15, 2022
The UCLA softball standout co-starred alongside Saweetie in her first national campaign. Boardroom caught up with her to discuss NIL, the power of positive self-talk, and what may lay ahead post-college.

The UCLA softball team is off to a 22-3 start this season, riding a 15-game winning streak after a dominant Saturday 17-1 victory over CSU Bakersfield. But on Sunday, the Bruins’ star utility player Maya Brady tallied an individual W in the NIL column when she starred in her first national ad spot as part of Champion’s “Get it Girl” campaign.

Aired on ESPN during the epic Big Apple matchup between the Knicks and Nets, the commercial features 13 student-athletes from across the country alongside hip-hop’s resident Icy Girl, Saweetie. The “Best Friend” vibes are strong as they celebrate the “flair, swagger, and confidence” required to take the field on sports’ biggest stages.

The opportunity is one of many coming Brady’s way since signing with WME earlier this year — and she didn’t anticipate any of it.

“I didn’t really expect to get the attention,” the UCLA junior told Boardroom. “Just playing softball, I didn’t expect the opportunities that I’ve been able to come by.”

But as she begins exploring the wide-open world of NIL, she is in search of partnerships that allow her to show her growing audience a different side of her. The chance to partner with Champion, to Brady, felt too good to be true — like a pitch left hanging in the strike zone.

“I was walking out of the weight room [when I got the call], and I was so excited,” she said. “I literally started smiling so big. Champion is just such an iconic brand, and I think a lot of their beliefs — and the motivation behind this whole campaign — is something that I am also very passionate about, which is obviously women in sports. … What this campaign stands for is just an amazing thing for female athletes.”

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The “Get It Girl” shoot brought Brady together with other young women tearing up college athletics, including UCLA gymnast Norah Flatley. The shoot took place across two days with all of the student-athletes and Saweetie, and it gave Brady the chance to embrace a creative environment when she is so used to constantly living in a competitive mindset.

Brady relayed that she “was not as nervous” as she thought she would be to push herself beyond her diamond-shaped comfort zone, but she used “self-talk” to encourage herself.

“I just had to tell myself to kind of let go of the fear of being uncomfortable or not wanting to dance because these people had such an incredible vision,” Brady added. “So even if I thought, How could this even look good that I’m dancing [when] I play softball?, it really came through. I really think people are gonna see [that side of me]. This experience was an amazing first experience for me.”

Brady has had plenty of experience being in front of the camera for big-time games or off-field interviews, but the production level for a campaign of this caliber was uncharted territory for her.

“I think what surprises me the most is just how hard it genuinely is when you’re not comfortable in that type of realm to fully experience something like shooting a campaign,” she explained. “I realized I would much rather play 10 games than dance in front of people. … Honestly, [I was surprised by] how draining it’s been. It genuinely takes a lot out of you. I have a lot more respect for people that are more into the showbiz realm because it is definitely not for the weak.”

Brady has an innate understanding of toughness because of her mom, Maureen — her biggest champion:

“If I had another person as my mom, I would not be where I am today. She has literally put me in the best position my entire life to succeed. She sacrificed so much for me — just her work ethic and seeing how she [balances] life and work. She’s a single mom, so raising two girls on her own and being a full-time nurse.

“She’s my biggest critic, but she’s definitely my biggest fan. And she’s not afraid to tell me when I’m in the wrong or when she sees something that I need to fix, which is very helpful for me, especially because she was a pitcher.”

Maureen Brady starred on the mound for the Fresno State Bulldogs, long before NIL opportunities entered the chat.

For Maya and her Champion co-stars, this campaign signals a massive change in the landscape moving forward.

Brady shared in a separate press release statement that she and the other 13 student-athletes have inked a two-year NIL investment as official Champion brand ambassadors: “Champion is also offering us access to mentors, helping develop our professional career interests within the areas of sports, entertainment, media and marketing.”

The NCAA altered its NIL policy last summer. Brady is enjoying the “whirlwind” change and wants to “run with it.” Her entire life has been consumed by softball, leaving little-to-no room for hobbies — let alone the thought of building a personal brand.

That was a hot topic on the Champion set. The student-athletes asked one another if they had ever experienced something like this and what they have been doing with their newfound NIL freedom.

“There was a lot of UCLA, USC [athletes], but there was [also] a lot of girls [from] across the country, so it was very interesting to see [it’s] not just in the hub of L.A. that people are getting deals; it’s people being recognized all across the country,” Brady said.

And those conversations have been present within the Bruins softball team, though primarily from head coach Kelly Inouye-Perez and her staff: “They wanted us to be very educated. They were very adamant about that because there are consequences if things aren’t done right.”

An alumnus with her own sports agency visited, too —”they have professional softball players, but they’re also pursuing some NIL athletes” — but Brady said that she and her teammates haven’t added NIL-related things to their group chat.

For now, the Bruins’ collective focus is capturing the Women’s College World Series championship as they last did in 2019. But as evidenced by the “Get It Girl” campaign, Brady is mindful of what her future might look like after her impressive UCLA career is finished.

“It feels weird because I’ve played softball since I was four years old, so to think about life without it is scary but exciting,” she said. “I’m just excited to see what my passions are because this sport has taken up so much of my time — so many commitments. It’s taken me so many places, and I haven’t really had the time to sit down and think about what I do enjoy outside of being Maya Brady The Softball Player. You know, just finding out who I am as a person. I’m really excited to see what opportunities I could potentially have when I’m done.”

Brady can’t say for sure, but she isn’t dead-set on pursuing a professional softball career. She would consider it, of course, if the right opportunity presented itself. Regardless, she wants to “stay around sports.” And whatever shape her evolving platform takes, Brady’s ultimate goal is the same.

“I just want people — little girls — to look at me and recognize me for not only my play on the field but just being a great teammate or someone that they may look like or connect with for some reason —more for the person I am and see a different side of me, rather than just if I hit a home run or not,” she said.

“With social media, and now that we have fans [in the stands] again, there’s a good amount of heckling, which is part of the game,” she continued. “So just being someone who didn’t let a lot of things affect [her] and who was super relentless in the pursuit of trying to be the best player she could be.”

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About The Author
Bernadette Doykos
Bernadette Doykos
Bernadette Doykos is the Senior Director of Editorial Strategy at Boardroom. Before joining the team, her work appeared in ELLE. She previously served as the head of evaluation for a nonprofit where she became obsessed with systems and strategy and served as the curator of vibes and extinguisher of fires for the design thinking firm Stoked. She is constantly plotting a perfect tunnel ‘fit and a playlist for all occasions.