Virginia Beach teacher and Founder of the Non-Profit ‘Make Meaningful Change, Maia Chaka, makes history becoming the NFL First Black Female Game Official. In this interview, Maia takes a deeper dive into her life beyond the field and discusses her motivation for maintaining an active role in her community.
2:18| First season expectations
3:36| Pregame routine
6:48| Progress in the NFL
8:14| Best and worst moment from her first season
10:48| Handling social media as an official
14:48| How did she get here
18:43| Hip-hop influence
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Warren Shaw 00:11
Let’s get everybody to boy Warren Shaw and welcome to dope interview is brought to you by the mighty 19 Media Group. Make sure to rate review subscribe the whole nine do all those things. Shout to rich kid clothing for always sponsoring the 19 media content. And on today’s show, super, super special guest. We’re taking it to the gridiron we have the groundbreaking, the inspirational. She just completed her first season as an NFL official. It is Maya Shaka, Maya, what’s good How you feeling?
Maia Chaka 00:42
I feel amazing. How are you?
Warren Shaw 00:44
No complaints? I’m excited to be here with you and discuss what is really groundbreaking stuff by you. You are a historian. Yeah. And I mean, if you go on Wikipedia, Whoa, now we’re gonna see Maya there, you know, I mean, amongst the legends, and kind of just wanted to get right into that being selected. And I don’t know if that’s the right word. Earning your way. Right to be be being an official in NFL. What was your first thoughts when you got the notification? Who was the first person you call?
Maia Chaka 01:14
Oh, man. When I when I received the call, it was just like a sigh of relief. And you know, I didn’t really believe it was happening, because I didn’t think it was gonna happen. And, you know, I was in development for seven years. And normally it takes people around like three years of development, you know, at the time I came in before they were either hired, or they were cut loose. And so it was a you know, relief, and I knew my life was gonna change. You know, from that moment on and the first person not call guy Lee, I think it was my mom. No, as America, it wasn’t, it wasn’t my mom. I’ll take that back. I didn’t call anyone. Everyone found out when it was on today’s show. I didn’t call and I thought about it. I didn’t call anybody. I just told everybody I call them mama told her to watch today’s show, but didn’t tell her what happened.
Warren Shaw 02:09
That’s a vibe, this vibe kind of keeping under wraps and let everybody like, boom, hit him on it. Hit him with it. I feel you on that. So now that the first season is over, right, was it what you expected?
Maia Chaka 02:22
Um, yes and no. Like, I was really expecting it to be difficult, not trying to say that it wasn’t difficult. I guess I was just well prepared for it. I was expecting to probably be maybe because, you know, it was COVID, the year before, and I had only worked four games in the Pac 12. So I was very rusty. So I was expecting, you know, everything to be much faster. And, you know, as professional football. But I did work an awful lot in the offseason, you know, to make sure that my mind was where it was supposed to be. I work with my crew, like in training camp, and they made sure that I was up to speed. There are some things that I you know, I’m gonna miss because it’s a part of the growth process. But I, you know, in I really am saying this, to be humble about it, but also a lot of confidence, you know, I’ll put the work in. So it was everything I expected it to be more, you know,
Warren Shaw 03:20
you know, so, something I’ve always wanted to know. And this is this is a personal question not even for our fans. This is just how the refs get and officials, how do they get crunk for games? Like, what’s your pregame routine? Like, what’s the situation with that?
Maia Chaka 03:34
Oh, man, so for me, I’m actually the opposite. Like, I don’t get amped up for games. I’m like, chill, because like, when you get to the stadium, they amp everything up for you. So like, the things I listened to like on my playlist, like on my way to the stadium, and like the morning of I listened to a lot of r&b, like, I listened to a lot of her a lot of summer Walker, that type of like vibe is what I’m in, like, for most of the day. And then when I get to the stadium, it’s like, whatever their plan, like it gets me hyped. You know, because the players are always hyped and when you go into the locker room, and then they get hyped, you know, that’s an amazing, like an amazing feeling as well.
Warren Shaw 04:11
Now for sure, for sure. So is there is there a pregame meal or you just eat whatever is at the stadium that that day.
Maia Chaka 04:17
So for us, like, we start so early in the morning, like if we have a one o’clock kit, like we’re eating breakfast, then that’s pretty much what we have and like I like to stick to just my oatmeal. Like for breakfast in that stadium. Different stadiums have different different things around for us to eat. Most of the options are like fruit, like you want to stick to something that’s kind of light. So you want to make sure you have whatever your breakfast is, is going to hold you down and then like because we’re at the stadium about three hours prior to the game time. They just they have stuff in the locker room like sandwiches and everything by the stick to fruit. I make a lot of liquids. Yeah,
Warren Shaw 04:53
yeah, it makes sense. You know, I gotta keep post
Maia Chaka 04:54
games different. Post game is different if we grow
Warren Shaw 04:57
grubbing I like that. So it kind of evens circling back. So obviously with the selection and being in this in this realm, he said it wasn’t a super difficult move for you in terms of just kind of getting your mind right. And you know, understanding what you need to do to call the game effectively. But it how did the fans how did how do how did the players I think, coaches, how did they all treat you as you know, kind of being, quote unquote, the first if you will,
Maia Chaka 05:28
man, they treat me like, just like they treat all the other referees. No, I’m joking, no joking. But that, but that’s what you want, you want to be treated the same? Yeah, but no sick, like, seriously, like, a lot of the players and coaches were actually happy to see me out there, especially the players, they will come up, you know, during pregame, but before everything kicked off, and they’ll tell me, they’re happy to see me out there, because they have daughters, or, you know, thank you for being out there. They’re happy to have my representation. But I think the greatest compliment is, once the game is over, when the coach tells you Good job, like once the game is done, you know, even after they’ve chewed you out the whole game, because it’s that’s a part of the game. That’s what comes with the program, right. But for them to tell you that you did a good job, or congratulations or not to receive a lot of complaints to the office, you know, following your game, I think that’s the highest compliment.
Warren Shaw 06:18
Yeah, that makes sense, for sure. And kind of along the same lines, if you will, you know, are we making headway fast enough? I think in this space, I mean, do you have friends, other female officials, we’re looking to kind of like be in the same spot of you that you can maybe reach back out and say whatever I’d like I know, it’s not open the door type of situation, just bring your homeboys and homegirls. And here’s type of thing, but it’s again, you know, I mean, is, are we making headway enough in this in this space, in your own opinion,
Maia Chaka 06:47
um, we were we are like, for the most part, I know, underneath me in a development program, they have another three women that are under development right now. And maybe some more. And actually, two of those three women came from Conference USA, where I was in two of them, I actually had, you know, the opportunity to work with them, and to train them and to talk with them when they were in a developmental stage. So we’re making headway The thing is getting enough women to be, you know, to even try, you know, and to try it at a realistic age in place in their life, where they can set yourself up for the best possible chance of success. And in that, trying to say, you know, we don’t want people who are older, but you know, just like any job, they want you fresh young, especially targeting like those young athletes coming out of college, when you don’t understand you know, exactly where your career may be taking you at that point, we try to recruit young at that age to get them in so that we can give them chance to develop. But it’s just about us with retention. And it’s not just with the women officials. It’s also a male officials to you know, trying to make sure that we get them at a point where, you know, they do have an opportunity to succeed the best way possible.
Warren Shaw 08:02
I wanted to ask you kind of best moment and worst moments from this first season. What’s like one thing like, oh, man, I was hella dope. But one things like, damn, I could I wish that when I know what not went another way.
Maia Chaka 08:13
So I’d say this, I can give you the same I can answer that question. One situation. Well, that’s it if this was crazy, in that, you know, this is just the way I look at life. Like even when things are kind of kind of jacked up, always find a good side about it. So a second training camp, I went to when I believe Baltimore, and I leave my shoes at home. So I show up the training camp. Yeah, I showed the train account with flip flops and pink toes. And I mean, I get joked at and my Heckle, because, you know, I’m the rookie, and I’m panicking because I don’t want them to call the office and tell them, you know, that this girl can even remember her shoes. So we get to train a camp. And then my crew kind of sort of pitches into trying to find me shoes at the last minute, you know, at the very last minute to try and look around trying to find me shoes, they can’t find shoes. So the team actually ends up giving me a pair of shoes. And I wore those through training camp and but it was an ongoing joke. Like every time I went on the field, like somebody from the team would come up to me say Hey, nice shoes, or hey, we got the same shoes on you know, I guess it was just like a joke of it. So it’s kind of like a good and a bad thing. You know, it’s bad that I forgot them and it’s very unprofessional. But the good thing is, you know, you own up to it and you show that you’re human and you build those relationships and you show your professionalism that way.
Warren Shaw 09:36
Yeah, I think he like said even getting to see kind of like the true human side and the teamwork side again of the league itself, like to people looking to help solve a solution even though they don’t count you for it, but they’re still trying to get a solution solid man, that’s pretty awesome. Pretty awesome. So what do you think has been the biggest lifestyle adjustment for you since you know being now this big time and up? All official
Maia Chaka 10:01
everything. So for me, I’m really a low key person, right. And when we’re officiating, we’re always taught to stay under the radar and to go unnoticed. Because nobody really likes referees. And so like, now with me, it’s like the complete opposite. You know, like, my life is not out there in the forefront, people want to get to know me. And that’s something I have to learn how to be better at, you know, I have to post more on social media or be more interactive, you know, as somebody who I’m already out there in the community quite a bit and working with youth. And, you know, that takes up a lot of time on my day. And now I have to add this other element in where other people want to be able to get to know me, and I have to be more open and welcoming to that.
Warren Shaw 10:44
So you just brought it up, and you know, it’s like your, you know, economy in my head here. Is your social media crazy, like, is it? Wow, cuz I mean, from an official standpoint, you know, people like to get out, you know, if you’re on Twitter all day with stuff like that, oh, that referee. I mean, but your, your social is not necessarily geared towards specifically your work in the league, but it’s kind of it’s your personal feed and page where people will seek you out. So is your social media kind of wild? Or are you able to kind of manage that.
Maia Chaka 11:12
So I mean, it’s strategically done like that, because I don’t want to just be known as the Black Girl referee, you know, I have a mind, you know, I have things that I want to put in place, I have other projects that I want to, you know, be known for other than that, then so that’s pretty much what my how my power went, but what I want my pays for flat. Now, obviously, because I have such a unique name. I don’t think there’s anybody else on the planet that has my name. You know, it’s, it’s really easy to find me and people do come at me sideways about some stuff, you know, inside of my DMs, or they may leave some weird comments on the bottom of the page. But you know, some people do things just for shock value. Yeah. But you know, I don’t address, you know, calls that were made. And again, whether it’s myself or my peers, or you know, colleagues, I don’t address that stuff on that, on those platforms.
Warren Shaw 12:03
I want to ask you a little bit about your community work and the nonprofit that you have. When did you start that? And why is that something that’s so important to you.
Maia Chaka 12:12
So the one I have now make meaningful change, I just launched it at the first of this year, it’s really pretty much re imaging rebranded when I was already doing in the community, I had one that was called gems girls with the power of minds and spirits. And I just want to switch it up and to cater to both males and females. And not just, you know, just not just young ladies out here. But so I got this idea, because you know, I’ve been working in education for 15 years first as a PE teacher. And now I’m a you know, a student success coordinator with another nonprofit that works in partnership with school systems. I just really found out that I love working with at risk youth and underserved communities, that’s something I love to do. That’s my very first passion. And there are so many gaps and holes as to who was being covered by what you know, like, from working in public school. There’s so many things you can’t do as a public educator, and then working with a nonprofit I’m working with now they’re working with pretty much only specific areas of the community. When there are so many other areas of the community, I need help where I could where I’m able to fill in those gaps that and so that’s just pretty much that is.
Warren Shaw 13:26
So is where did this passion for the community kind of come from where it is? Damn, why is that something that’s all in bold in for you?
Maia Chaka 13:34
I think I think that’s how I was raised. You know, like my father. My father was a youth counselor at a juvenile juvenile Home for Boys in New York state. And so that’s what he did. You know, he was also very heavy into rebuilding the communities of Southern California with the, with the Watts Riots when he was living in California. And that was something that was just in him. And they always taught us, you know, as children to put your community first. You know, he had we had a bookstore, when I was a young child, and his store was always in the hood, they they tried to make a move it to the suburbs and to the mall. And he refused because he wanted to serve as a resource to the community. And so I think by growing up with that around me, that’s all I knew. All I knew was to work hard and give back. And so it just came like second nature to me.
Warren Shaw 14:25
I love it. Yeah, I mean, and I always say when I’m talking with people, nobody has any just one thing. So you’re doing this, you’re doing that and those were the things that are important to you and trying to make sure that you have left the community and having that that familial structure that foundation to kind of propel you really, you’re doing a really great job with that. And I’m sure you’re an inspiration to so many that you’re working with in your community. I know that you’re originally I guess from from the Rochester area so to speak, and can you say this was always the goal? Was it always to kind of be where you’re at right now or had has your vision in full For what you wanted to do with your life change along the way.
Maia Chaka 15:04
My goal was always to be successful at something. And, yeah, once I started officiating, of course you want to make it to the NFL. But that wasn’t necessarily my dream. You know, when I was a kid, my dream was to be the first woman in NBA. And that didn’t really work out. So I just noticed like in life, like when you start working, there are certain it is great to have goals. But sometimes you have to realize when certain goals aren’t working, or you just have to always have your eyes open and your ears open for other opportunities. And when those opportunities come, you know, just be prepared to try it. You know, I’m an Aries, I’m a fire sign, I go out on a limb, I try, I dabble in everything. Like if anything is thrown in my face, it’s like, I’m going to try it. And I’m going to do it to the best of my ability until I can’t do it anymore. You know, I like to live by certain I won’t say a certain rule. But I challenge myself every year to do something different than I haven’t done in a previous years. And so that that’s always on my thing. So that’s the reason why I’m a little bit, you know, I’m able to mix and match with a couple of different people because I just try everything.
Warren Shaw 16:13
So are you do you feel like, you’re going to be the pride of Rochester? Are you going to be the biggest person out there? They’re gonna give you the keys of the CD $1.09
Maia Chaka 16:25
I hope not. I hope there’s somebody bigger coming up underneath me? Well, no, because it’s what I did was great. You know, but, you know, we still can have a black female, that’s an owner of a team and that will be monumental. We can have some black women that are coaching or you know, are involved in other sports, or some big position in corporate America somewhere. So it shouldn’t just end our me I’m just like one extent of, you know, of it. So I’d like to see somebody trumped me or, you know, go higher than where I am.
Warren Shaw 17:04
And that’s what makes you you, right, truly, as I said before, you’re you’re clearly an inspiration. You have a lot on your shoulders. Before we let you get out of here just a couple of couple quick ones just what do you think what would you like your second season to kind of be like in the NFL? Oh,
Maia Chaka 17:21
that’s a good one. That’s a very good one I know that for First of all, you know I did a good job my first year not being somebody who’s me and so that’s how I want to continue my second year, but more more so you know, I want to be able to grow more as to where I am you know, be able to make just my vision on the field and it’s nice to improve being able just to see more you know, I did a really good job my first year what call selection and you know, in just what I need to do as a rookie, but now it’s just stepping it up and take it to the next level. Like can I see beyond what’s just in front of my face? You know, where can I help out in the game? You know, there’s so many gaps and covers sometimes so how can I look beyond those gaps to fill in holes?
Warren Shaw 18:17
Yeah, that’s perfect. That’s perfect. I think that’s that’s a great answer. So uh, last one here before we let you get out of here for real for real I know you got a flight to catch you got things to do i But again as I mentioned you are an inspiration and definitely what I’m seeing an IG and you got a little bit of fashion sense as well too. I mean you got here you rocking the scarf you got the all things going on just kind of word of that whole situation kind of come from from you from from a lifestyle and fashion standpoint.
Maia Chaka 18:42
I like BC and rap music this year like seriously you grew up like you know you know just like looking at people like Mary and like you know the whole Bad Boy error like you know what, like puffy and you know like Kim some of the stuff she were and it was just that was just like a way like to express yourself so for me I just like to pull like from every areas and every avenues and just put it together and just make me because I you know I don’t see myself looking like one particular person you know as I like to throw stuff together sometimes the hit sometimes the Miss
Warren Shaw 19:20
Well, I want you to go ahead and start the first officials would you call it a arena walk you know how they have the MBA and I see like Ross and others coming in we want to see you know Miss Shaka coming through with her things you know we get to get that get that trend in and hey have you trend in the right way with those memes as he was talking about what you think? Yeah,
Maia Chaka 19:41
it’s it’s all what it is you put it in place let’s see what happens.
Warren Shaw 19:47
Plug your socials before we get to get out of here one time to other people where they can follow you and also the name of your your your not for profit again as well too.
Maia Chaka 19:55
Sure you can follow me on IG is my first and last name just Maya Shaka prophet is make meaningful change. Right now the website is currently under construction that should be up there mid March and that will be make meaningful change.org
Warren Shaw 20:11
That’s it. You heard it here first from my new friend, the great the incomparable Maia Shaka, she is not just an NFL official she’s out here doing big things in her community that is all the time we have for today big shots again to my thank you so much for being here with us today. I’m your host Warren shock big shots in 19 Media Group and this has been another dope interview and we’re out