Maria Contreras: Determination
Maria Contreras loves to throw 3-pointers when she’s playing basketball with her boys. “I’m usually just “mom” to them but it’s fun to show them that side of me!” says Maria.
Growing up in Glendale, AZ, in one of the more violent-prone neighborhoods, Maria turned to sports in junior high school and continued playing soccer and basketball in high school. She says sports changed the trajectory of her life, steering her away from the negative influences and putting her on a path towards college. Studying civil engineering at Arizona State University, Maria was the first person in her family to attend college.
One year from earning her Bachelor’s degree, Maria put her studies on hold to prioritize caring for her family. “My mom worked 3 jobs when I was young, and I was determined to be present for my kids. It’s important for me to be involved in their lives. I have been able to help them with homework, be a parent coach, and drive them to practice and games. I want to be a basketball mom. I want to be a soccer mom. I joke with my boys that I will finally graduate from ASU at the same time as they do!”
Maria enrolled her two sons, Luis and Miguel, in sports programs when they turned three. Knowing the positive impact sports had on her life, she wants to make sure that they both experience the same benefits. “Sports teaches you so much. How to be disciplined, how to take instruction. My boys have a lot of energy and it’s important to put that energy towards something positive.”
“Sports teaches you so much. How to be disciplined, how to take instructions. My boys have a lot of energy and it’s important to put that energy towards something positive.”
Both boys claim that sports are their favorite activity; they participate in basketball and soccer and hope to play flag football in the spring. Luis, age 9, enjoys the exercise and how it makes him feel. He also says sports have helped him listen and learn how to take direction. “When I was younger, I had to run an extra lap or two because I didn’t listen. Now I don’t have to do that anymore because I have learned to follow instructions.” Maria attests to the fact that Luis struggled with discipline when he was younger, and being involved in sports has been a game-changer.
Luis’s younger brother, MIguel, (age 7) loves being with his friends and learning new skills. He says, “life without sports would be badder! I love getting to learn new things!”
Working as a call-center supervisor, Maria has been able to work from home during the pandemic while also juggling the boy’s half-day school schedule. “It was tough on them when school was shut down and their summer soccer season got canceled. I saw the effect it had on their mental health and they didn’t seem happy. They need to be out playing and seeing friends.”
Maria learned about the EKS Pass from another mom and hopes that other families learn about the program, too. “I couldn’t believe this program existed. It has helped so much with my budget. Paying for one kid is hard but paying for two kids with fees, shoes, and equipment can be tough.” In 2020, 208 kids in the Phoenix area received funding to play sports through the Pass program. The EKS Phoenix Pass is supported by the NBA Players’ Association and we appreciate their help in making sure kids like Miguel and Luis experience the positive benefit of sports.
– The Every Kid Sports team
Many thanks to Jeret Wayne for the fantastic photos. Jeret, you really captured Maria’s story, visually!