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The Women's Sports Alliance

PRESENTS...

Meet Layla Guscoth - Dr. Netball

“Challenges, like injuries, can be so hard to deal with physically and even more so mentally, but when you work through them you become stronger and more resilient.”


Images courtesy of England Netball and Morgan Harlow


There is a unique theme to every athlete’s career, but Layla Guscoth’s self-confessed “strange journey” had consisted of more twists and turns than most.

It is worth pointing out that a number of the years since her international debut in 2012 have been spent away from the sport; some through choice as she pursued her medical career, but others less so – with injuries costing her crucial time on the court.

Now, though the 30-year-old feels “immense pride” when she looks back on her career, but she also has also gained “perspective” and views her experiences as a “real privilege”.

After helping guide England to a series win over Commonwealth silver medallists Jamaica – and claiming the ‘player of the tournament’ award – the WSA chatted at length with the defence specialist to reflect on her story so far and future aspirations.


Images courtesy of England Netball and Morgan Harlow


Like most in her sport, Layla began playing netball as a child and while there was an instant attraction it took time before her love of playing really took hold.

“I'd kind of gone through the age groups with netball and had fun, but it was really just something that I liked to do at weekend,” she recalls.

“I think the passion for netball probably came after I'd started playing it at a top level when I got an injury around 18 or 19 and I realised how much I enjoyed being on the court.

“That time (away) really drove my passion to have a career in sport, improve and play for England.”

Layla represented England at U17, U19 and U21 levels before making her senior debut for the Vitality Roses in 2012. She continued balancing her medical studies with playing domestic as well as international netball until 2015, when she was left with a choice.

“I DIDN’T THINK I’D RETURN TO NETBALL”


Images courtesy of England Netball and Morgan Harlow


Exams and placements were complete, her peers were taking on their first full-time roles and Layla admits she was being “pulled in lots of different directions.”

“That was a really tough decision for me at the time because full-time netball is a huge commitment and something I am really proud of, but so was going through medical school and being a doctor,” she admits.

“After debating it I took a couple of years out, not thinking I would ever return to the England Netball fold and I felt pretty comfortable with that at the time.

“Then had a stubborn head coach, called Tracy Neville who is a fantastic woman and she just kept kind of nudging me and saying that the ‘door was open’.

“A couple of years into being a doctor I started to think, ‘maybe I haven't finished or closed that chapter’ and I’d like to give it another go.”

Layla watched from afar as the England team secured a historic first-ever Commonwealth title at the 2018 Gold Coast Games in Australia.

“I wouldn’t say it ‘fired me up’ because I’d already made the decision to try and come back anyway, but I was just really excited for the girls as so many of the team had been close friends for decades,” she tells the WSA.

“It was such a great moment to see all the work generations of England netball players have put in finally came to fruition and it made me want to be a part of the environment even more.”



Challenges, Comebacks & Covid

Once back in the sport Layla made rapid progress and her international return came in a record-breaking 52-39 victory over New Zealand in October 2018.

The following year she was part of England’s bronze-medal winning Netball World Cup team, but her own campaign ended early after a serious Achilles rupture in the group-stage.

“That was a really difficult time, yes the physical side obviously, that hard, but it was more from a mental point of view.

“So much of that came from the fact I'd loved the run up to the World Cup and a whole year of opportunities after coming back to the sport and then it just felt like it was taken away from me.

“I found it quite difficult to process and I found it quite hard to find that enjoyment again. “Now, when we've had rubbish games or something bad happens, I do reflect back on those moments - not being able to walk around or drive my car - and I think about just how far I’ve had to come to get back to play at this level.

“It was a tough road to recovery, but I’m proud I made it back.”

Layla was set to make her competitive comeback with domestic team Adelaide Thunderbirds in early 2020, but the Coronavirus pandemic “changed everything.”


Images courtesy of England Netball and Morgan Harlow


“Before I'd flow out to Australia for the season I'd been working at a hospital in Birmingham until maybe the week before the pandemic really hit England, so it kind of felt like I'd left office and then things really escalated,” she recalls.

“I was getting messages from colleagues and I could see that every hand was needed to help and at the time Australia as well as everywhere was going into worldwide lockdown.

“I could either just stay in Australia and not really do anything or yeah, come home and just try and help bolster the workforce for the pandemic.

“It was a strange and pretty hard time which everybody experienced working in hospitals, but it taught me a huge amount and I met some great people so it was certainly worth coming back and being able to contribute some of my skills to the workforce.”

Layla will one day return to working full-time as a medical health professional, ideally as an anaesthetist she admits, having been fascinated by their work as a child.

For now though, there are targets on the court.

‘WE CAN WIN A FIRST-EVER NETBALL WORLD CUP GOLD’


Images courtesy of England Netball and Morgan Harlow


After the impressive series win over Jamaica the England Roses now face the world’s two leading teams, Australia and New Zealand, as well as hosts South Africa in a quad series which will serve as a crucial warm-up event for the 2023 World Cup this summer.

“It’s been a tough journey but it’s made me a lot stronger and I want to keep pushing to be at the next World Cup and actually survive the tournament this time,” she says with a smile.

“There’s a huge fire in us because it (the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games) didn’t go our way and we’ve had a hard look at ourselves.

Layla, who was part of the England team who finished fourth last summer, continues; “winning (a first-ever World Cup title) would mean a huge amount.

“It would mean there’s a reward for all of the sacrifices, but being able to get the netball word out there by bringing something home to help grow the sport would be incredible!”

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