Netball maestro Eboni Usoro-Brown has a new, tiny muse—one she hopes will inspire other mums on maternity leave, writes Rachel Steinberg.
The Team Bath co-captain already has four Vitality Netball Superleague titles to her name, but insisted winning one in 2021 will feel unlike any other. This year, Savannah will be there with her.
Usoro-Brown returned to the court in February, just six months after giving birth to her little girl. The 104 capped England international and mum of a now ten-month-old, said Savannah is as prepped for the Finals Weekend as she and her teammates are.
“She’s tried and tested with a Team Bath Blue and Gold t-shirt and jersey,” said Usoro-Brown.
“She had blue and gold bows in her hair this weekend.
“She’s kitted out, she’s ready, and she’s also got the clap hands down to a T, so hopefully she just does it when Bath score rather than the other team.”
Team Bath, sponsored by Haines Watts, are one of four squads vying for a place in the league’s Grand Final at London’s Copper Box Arena on Sunday, but first need to edge out Manchester Thunder on Saturday to make the top two.
Though the Somerset side, also backed by Rengen and Centurion CFP, have emerged victorious from all five of their top-two tilts, it’s been eight long years since their last title match.
And though Savannah might only be able to babble her encouragement, the infant’s solicitor and netball legend parent made a solid case for the special legacy this trophy would leave.
“First and foremost, this year will feel very different because I haven’t won a title with Team Bath for a number of years,” said the England Netball Hall of Fame inductee, who made her Blue and Gold debut in 2006.
“But mostly because I’m a mother now. In terms of where I am, and the chapter in my life, not only am I playing for myself but for Savannah.
“I want to be a good role model, and inspire other women out there, during their maternity leaves, you can achieve great things as well.
“I think it will be different in that regard, but also in and around my teammates. Some of the girls, like Serena Guthrie, Kim Borger and Layla Guscoth I’ve been playing with for years.
“So when you get to play with your friends, in a game where you’ve developed a level of maturity, and you’re having so much fun, I think it makes it extra special.”
Usoro-Brown, who is on maternity leave from her job as a commercial litigator, is the first one to verify that it really does take a village to raise a child.
The 2018 Commonwealth Games champion’s mum and husband, she said, play a critical role in enabling her to spend more time both on and in court.
So why do so few male athletes get asked about fatherhood? The answer, Usoro-Brown believes, comes down to awe.
She said: “I think there's a bit of a taboo or a stigma in terms of female athletes when you’ve had a baby, as to whether you then go on to return to elite sport.
“Quite often it’s presumed as an elite athlete that you finish your career before thinking about motherhood.
“I think now in these modern times, times are changing. The likes of Serena Williams, Helen Glover and myself, in terms of, actually, we can still have a baby and return to elite sport at a really good level, and push for those ultimate titles.
“So I guess it's one of those things that you’re probably a bit of a superhero to the wider community.”
And, no doubt, to a little girl with blue and gold bows in her hair.
The 2021 Vitality Netball Superleague season will come to a climactic end on 26 and 27 June at the Finals Weekend in London. Visit the Vitality Netball Superleague website. Fans can enjoy all matches live via the Sky Sports Mix and YouTube. Keep up to date by following @NetballSL on Twitter and Instagram