Eboni Usoro-Brown, who played her first full Superleague match on Monday since becoming a mother, discusses how Serena Williams has always inspired her to return to elite-level sport and the ongoing need for visible role models.
When Team Bath Netball’s line-up was announced for their much-anticipated third-round clash with Wasps Netball, one area of the court commanded attention – Bath’s defensive circle.
In it, Usoro-Brown’s name next to the GK position and that meant the incredibly experienced defender was set for her first Vitality Netball Superleague start since the birth of her first child in August last year. The fact she was marking Rachel Dunn, simply added to the excitement.
What fans did not realise, was that Usoro-Brown would remain on court for the full 48 minutes, as opposed to just playing a quarter or half. As was the case on the opening weekend, she excelled and the turnover ball that Usoro-Brown and Tash Pavelin gained was an instrumental part of Bath’s victory.
A good win tonight, but there’s more to come from @TeamBathNetball 💙💛 x #Journeybacktothecourt #6monthspostpartum 1st full game 😉 @NetballSL @SkyNetball pic.twitter.com/EAa7VQ4bLx
On August 21, 2020, Usoro-Brown became a mother for the first time when she and her husband welcomed daughter Savannah into the world.
Throughout her pregnancy, the 33-year-old lawyer remained active and used her social media platforms to share her training, and the fact she was still listening to her body.
“I’ve tried to keep active as much as possible throughout my pregnancy, aiming to walk 5km daily,” she said within a social media post a week before giving birth.
“Over the last few weeks, I have slowed down a little and I am averaging 3-4 times a week. I’ve still really enjoyed getting out and getting some fresh air, but it was also important for me to listen to my body during this third trimester.
“It’s funny because before lockdown I wasn’t a big fan of walking for fun, but it’s been my solace and one of the most positive things mentally, physically and emotionally that I’ve undertaken this year.”
Once she had given birth, Usoro-Brown returned to exercise and training with the guidance of experts around her. As someone who had always made it clear she wanted to be both a mother and an athlete, she was focused on her return to court.
A post shared by Eboni Usoro-Brown (neè EBC) (@eboniusorobrown)
“This whole journey is a totally different experience for me, not knowing how my body will cope, not knowing how my mental strength to tell myself to keep going will be challenged when confronted with obstacles, not knowing if I’ll ever get back to my former self,” she said at the beginning of October.
“It’s about remembering my whys on a daily basis, continuing to have self-belief that I’ll reach my goal, keeping consistent, taking it slowly one day at a time, and just being kind to myself.”
A post shared by Serena Williams (@serenawilliams)
Throughout her own road back to elite-level sport, Usoro-Brown had the inspiration of a fellow athlete in mind, Serena Williams.
“It’s incredibly important, for mothers to return and still chase the dream,” she said in a Sky Sports interview with Camilla Buchanan.
“My role model has always been Serena Williams. The way in which she had a child, had a number of complications, but then came back and was in the final at Wimbledon a year after, to me spoke volumes.
“After the Netball World Cup in 2019, I have to say that I was exhausted. It had been an amazing two years from the 2018 Commonwealth Games to the 2019 World Cup, and I remember at the end of that match against South Africa when we won the bronze medal, I was just crying.
“But, in terms of coming back to netball… I wasn’t done [with the sport]. Netball been a part of my life since I was a little girl and I love it. I absolutely love it,” she added.
“So, coming back to the court to Team Bath and playing Superleague is something that was very much in my vision and the pipeline for me.
“In the same breath, it took me nine months to grow a baby and your body goes through a significant amount of change during that time, so it’s about respecting that.
“For me, the journey is going to be a bit of a process. I know that it’s going to be slow but I’m committed, willing and excited about the journey.”
It’s such an important message, that just because you have had a child doesn’t mean you can’t go back to elite sport. You have to respect the journey it is going to take to get back to that level. Your body has gone through a major event and it is going to take time to heal. But, as long as you have a positive mindset and attitude, the right help and support around you and you listen to your body, there’s no reason why you can’t step back onto that court or return to any sport you loved.
While fulfilling her own ambitions and dreams, as a new mother Usoro-Brown also wants to set an example for daughter Savannah; an example with regard to working hard in order to achieve your goals, and with regard to equality and race.
“Every mother wants to do the best for their child; they want to put them on the best pathway in order to allow them to succeed in whatever their chosen goals, ambitions or dreams might be,” she said.
“It’s incredibly important that she has those role models, and visible role models, so she can aspire and so that she knows that there aren’t any barriers or excuses, just because of the colour of her skin that she can’t achieve something.
“Her father is an engineer in the RAF, I’m a lawyer, Layla Guscoth my Team Bath team-mate is a doctor, so in and around her she can already see that those sorts of careers, accolades and also sporting accolades are achievable.”
Usoro-Brown spoke more about this during the recent Black Roses: Netball after the Windrush documentary alongside other elite netballers like Serena Guthrie, Jodie Gibson, Razia Quashie, Kadeen and Sasha Corbin.
“If you can see it, you can believe it and you can achieve it,” she concluded. “I think the more black representation we have across sport, not necessarily just sport in all industries, we will be the leaders of tomorrow.”
Sky Sports is your home of netball. The Vitality Netball Superleague continues on Sunday with four back-to-back matches, streamed on the Sky Sports YouTube channel from 12pm.
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