Strong Yet Feminine Profiles are a series of interviews, showcasing ambitious women who are striving to follow their passion. Many are working full time and pursuing their dream on the side, some have already taken the leap, and share their experiences (the good and the bad!).
Any career decision is difficult, but making a leap into a different field, in order to pursue a true passion, has to be one of the most inspiring stories. I know, for me, hearing stories like these were crucial to bolstering my confidence when considering my own change in direction.
Sally Lane Jewellery is designed for exactly such Strong Yet Feminine women…the fierceness of the edgy triangle jewellery is the perfect accessory to these confident, go get ‘em ladies...all power to you!
Eboni Usoro-Brown (nee Beckford-Chambers)- Netball Gold Medalist and Qualified Lawyer.
Eboni was introduced to me by a mutual friend (thanks Caroline Melville!) and happily Eboni wore some of my pieces to the BAFTAs last year. It was clear Eboni was a high achiever, having accomplished what some thought impossible with the England netball team, beating Australia on their home ground in the 2018 Commonwealth Games. It was only recently that I realised that alongside that, not only is she a fully qualified lawyer, but she also managed to fit in a wedding at the end of last year. Now this is a woman we need to hear more from!
Q1. Firstly, huge congratulations on your marriage! Before we get to that let’s start at the beginning. I am fascinated to hear about how you were as a child. Do you remember any key moments that contributed to your incredible attitude of ambition and can do?
Thank you! I hear that you have also recently got married so congratulations to you as well. The photos looked stunning.
Well my mum has always been a high achiever and is very determined. As a single parent she always encouraged me to be ambitious and to dream big. It’s down to my Mum that I have always grown up with the mind-set that the sky is the limit as long as you work hard, have a level of determination and resilience, a positive attitude and a little bit of luck, then anything is achievable.
Q2. When did you first start playing netball? Do you think your discipline came from netball, academia or elsewhere?
I started playing at primary school but fell in love with the game at the age of 13 while watching international netball at Wembley. I was just mesmerized.
Being a member of the BAME community, I feel that I have a responsibility to lead by example and demonstrate that success is achievable for those brave enough to take on the challenge. I have also been driven by the need to never fail my Mum as she worked so hard to put me in this position.
Q3. It seems like you have an incredibly close team; how do you support one another women to women, and do you have a view about how that is different from male teams? Do you think that contributes to the success?
We are such a close team. I think it is so important for women to support each other and one of our key value is to celebrate and embrace difference. Each team member comes from a different culture with different value systems, but we have a common purpose. It’s that common purpose that unites us to achieve success. Success may mean different things to the individual but at the core we all want to develop each other’s strengths to gain that victory. The bond we have is also really authentic. As we don't have the level of resources as those available to our male counterparts, our level of success is born out of love for game and the love we have for each other. It’s very real which is nice and very humbling.
Q4. Congratulations on winning two awards at the BBC Sports Personality of the Year awards. Your captain made the point in her speech that women’s teams are steaming ahead with wins on a global platform but remain significantly underfunded. Do you see this changing anytime soon and how can readers get behind and support this movement?
Thank you. It’s all been a bit of a whirlwind to be honest. I think the success of the lionesses, the woman’s hockey team at Rio, rugby Red Roses and the England netball team all show the strength and depth of the female athletes in UK.
Following the success of our Commonwealth gold we have seen a real increase in the profile of netball within the UK which is great, with over 130,000 new members affiliating themselves within England netball the week after the final. Also with media outlets such as Sky and the Telegraph increasing their commitment to report and cover woman’s sport I think it really has transformed the perception of the professional female athlete and will hopefully go on to inspire the next generation, to take that ambition and run with it.
Q5. Your coaching involved what you call an expansive review of your game, where you identified that the team’s emotional state was playing a part in performance. You subsequently underwent ‘World Class Pressure Sessions’ which sought to recreate the environment you would experience in major championships during training sessions. Tell us more about these sessions and whether the whole process has helped you to look at other areas of your life in the same analytical way. Do you think we can apply this to other stressful situations in life?
Having reviewed the 2014 Commonwealth Games footage after placing 4th we identified that we needed to develop our emotional intelligence, so our first step was to change how we responded to pressure because essentially that was what was letting us down. We looked at our body language during critical periods of the games, and the way in which we responded. This was to identify and analyse in each moment, what was in our mind set, was it a ‘fight’ or ‘flight’ situation. The World Class Pressure Sessions showed that in certain moments most of us where actually fleeing at different times. It wasn't a lack of belief that we couldn’t do it; it was our approach of focusing on the results instead of the process that was our undoing. So essentially we looked to strengthen our emotional resilience under fatigue stress and the uncomfortableness we felt by looking at how we processed our emotions during those times. We then had a safe environment to analyse those outcomes but make the necessary adjustments that were needed. It’s interesting though as I don't think it was necessarily the sessions that helped me in the other areas of my life but the other way around. My achievements in law and general day to day life are actually what allow me to realise my successes in netball. Essentially though, the pressure sessions are a useful tool that anyone can adopt throughout their everyday life i.e. know your weaknesses and assess how you react in certain situations and then focus on the adjustments you need to adopt.
Q6. You have become the queen of time management, balancing your commitments with netball tours and an intense work schedule training to become a lawyer. What are your top tips for managing this?
Have an understanding husband! In essence I have the best support network which is imperative as there are days when I wonder how I will make it to the end and fit everything in. In terms of my own time management my top tip would be to make clear intentions, you can’t do anything without having a clear plan of action. I also make sure that I take time out for myself which is essential! 3 times week I focus on only myself, whether that’s yoga or just a relaxing bath. I then have the head space to ensure that I’m clear on what I need to do and my purpose for doing them.
Q7. Many women would like to have more flexible working hours in order to accommodate other passions, do you have any advice about how to approach this with their employers?
I think it’s difficult one as employers also have to run a business and to do that you need loyal hardworking employees attending work on a daily basis. In saying that, the emotional wellbeing of your staff is essential to achieve that goal. Communication is the key. I always say that if you don't ask the question you will never know. Getting a ‘no’ just allows you to assess your options more clearly as does a ‘yes’.
Q8. How important is it for you to pursue other passions outside of work and is there anything else you would like to pursue, other than netball and law?
I think it’s really important to pursue other passions outside of work and home life. I love to travel. Netball has allowed me to see the world and I fully indulge in that passion. I also want to start a family in the not so distant future and that will bring with it its own challenges in terms of time management and splitting my time whilst still striving to achieve my goals, as my priorities may be elsewhere. I look forward to the challenge though!
Q9. Often, behind the amazing woman, there is a strong support network. Who are those people for you?
I have amazing friends and family and am very lucky in terms of the support I have received from England netball, Team Bath and my Employer. The foundation of leadership through sport, the Mintridge foundation, and my personal sponsors have also been amazing. I think they have all contributed to my success, whether that’s financial support, sport science and medical, career guidance or general emotional support. I’ve been very lucky.
Q10. Who is the #strongyetfeminine women in your life and why?
I truly believe that the women I surround myself with are all #strongyetfeminine women. They are all high achieving women who are fighters, but also keep a great level of integrity. I think there is real strength in being unassuming. They never have to scream from the rooftops that they are strong capable women they just get on with it and do so with a strong sense of passion and humility. They are all my inspiration.
Q11. How on earth did you plan a wedding while all this was going on?!
I have no idea!! To be fair with quite a lot of the things, I had some sense of idea as to what we (I) wanted (lol). I was blessed to have a number of superb suppliers as well. Honestly the team at Elmore court, Card and light.com and the Birmingham community gospel choir made a frantic process really fun just by their approach, attitude and willingness to ensure that my day was everything I had hoped it would be. I will be forever grateful.
I wish you every happiness in your new marriage and will be cheering you on in July!