How Cheyenne Parker is raising her daughter, playing in Italy and learning about life along the way
BOLOGNA, Italy — Naomi Sernina Tyus isn’t feeling 100 percent, so she’s resting at home as Virtus Segafredo Bologna and ZVVZ USK Praha take the court on a rainy night in mid-December. It’s Naomi’s first time with the flu, and while she’s getting over her bout, some international travel in the weeks leading up to the match has left her feeling a bit out of sorts.
At least that’s what her mother, Cheyenne Sernina Parker, believes.
During this midseason Euroleague contest, Parker’s daughter is just over a week away from celebrating her first birthday. Almost everything is still new to Naomi. And much of it is new to Parker, too. “It’s been a journey learning to be a mother,” she says.
Parker was selected fifth overall in the 2015 WNBA Draft by the Chicago sky and played six seasons with the franchise to begin his career. He has spent the last two years with him Atlanta Dream. Everyone WNBA During the off-season, the 30-year-old forward has gone all over the world, initially in China and eventually in South Korea and France. His stay in Italy this winter, he says, has been “so different” from those; she is now a first-time parent. With motherhood comes a changed mindset: “The ball is life, but there’s more to life than the ball,” says Parker. “Now that I have that perspective, the pressure goes away.”
Whether Naomi recognizes it, basketball is already a part of her life. She spent the summer going to dream games – Parker played in every competition last season, months after giving birth on December 27, 2021. During Parker’s time in Italy, she has also been a regular at Bologna contests, both at home and at home. the road. She is often courtside with Parker’s mother, Verna Bryant, who has been in Italy helping with her granddaughter’s childcare as she has since Naomi’s birth.
Parker says she often reflects on the sacrifices she’s made to maintain a high level on the court, whether it’s having to be away from her baby for hours at a time to work on her game, or her family adjusting their lives to so you can live your professional dreams, or the physical and mental toll on your body from breastfeeding and playing simultaneously. “But that’s what keeps me going, honestly,” he says. “It’s my fuel. Hearing my peers give me props or just call me amazing for being able to handle it all. It lets me know that, yes, what I’m doing is hard, and even challenging at times. But It’s so worth it and makes it that much more of an amazing journey to share with her one day.”
Adds Keevin Tyus, Parker’s fiance: “She’s a strong woman. Not every woman can do what she’s doing.”
Before an away game on December 4 against Passalacqua Ragusa, Naomi was not feeling well and needed comfort. Parker, however, had to start loosening his muscles. On the court, wearing uniform number 32, she held her baby in her arms and rocked her while doing squats.
In the days that followed, Naomi’s condition worsened (she has since recovered), so while Parker and her teammates traveled to Athens on a two-day trip to play Olympiacos, Naomi he stayed at home. It marked the first extended period of time Parker was away from her daughter. “It was difficult. It was crazy,” he says. “I didn’t know what to do with myself.”
Bologna returned to Italy after their 79–63 win in Greece, but had two more games on the road. Bryant was facing his own battle with the flu and as a result did not travel with the team to Campobasso, a city in southern Italy, and Szekszárd, Hungary.
In the competition of the Italian league, Parker entrusted Naomi to the hands of Angela Gianolla, sports director of Virtus. Anxiety crept in before the contest about how Naomi would feel during the game. Parker says she tried meditating and praying before. “I don’t know why, [but] it was emotional,” he says. He scored 25 points and grabbed nine rebounds with Naomi next to Gianolla at the end of the bench.
Four nights later, Naomi was sleeping as Bologna entered the Szekszárd Arena. When it was time to warm up, he placed some chairs together and placed Naomi on top of them, with team manager Roberta Resta watching closely. Once the action settled down, whenever Bologna was at the free-throw line (or during other stops), Parker would look to his baby. However, he resisted the urge to walk, because, he says, “if I get too close, he’ll want me.”
When juggling motherhood with her playing career, Parker says it helps that Naomi has “always been very adaptable” – a quality she notes comes from herself. Naomi has taken to eating pasta with red sauce; spaghetti is a favorite. He quickly hit European time and wakes up two or three times a night to breastfeed before going to sleep. “I don’t miss a chance to sleep,” Parker says. “If she’s asleep, I sure will be.” Unlike players without newborns, napping with her daughter “is probably my best bet” for any midday break, she adds.
Teammates still invite Parker to hang out, and she says she still occasionally goes out to dinner with them. The dynamic, though, “is different of course,” she says: not only is she the second-biggest player on Virtus, but the single mom on the roster.
Parker says her daughter is already the size of a 2-year-old and Naomi likes to play with people. At the games, Parker says, he’s made a few friends, including assistant coach Jordan Losi’s sons. Naomi can throw and pass, her mother says. His shooting form, though, “is a little behind right now,” Parker says.
Due to Italy’s visa regulations, Tyus spent the first part of Parker’s season overseas in the US. She arrived in Italy in mid-December and brought not only more support, but more breast pumps, Tylenol diapers, and baby Pampers. Parker traveled to Italy with the latter – she also made sure to bring Aveeno Baby wash and shampoo and Dove baby lotion, keen to use products both she and Naomi were used to, and loaded up while in the States United during the Thanksgiving holiday. However, she says motherhood “changes the whole dynamic of being prepared, being responsible.”
After a full WNBA summer, Parker considered skipping the overseas campaign entirely or playing just half a season as a way to recuperate and spend more time with her baby. He explored a possible return to China, where the season is shorter than in Italy. But with Bologna, he says he has a good basketball opportunity and a financial offer that’s worth it. Also, she had never been to the country before and heard positive reviews about the city where she is currently based.
Against Praha, Parker is tasked with trying to match the production of big stars Alyssa Thomas i Brionna Jones, who spend their non-WNBA seasons with the Czech team. Tyus, who played both collegiately and professionally overseas, yells “the heart of a lion” as Parker introduces himself to the crowd. He shouts directions and encouragement from a seat near the team bench throughout the game. Like Parker, he hopes his repertoire will continue to develop abroad; after all, she is there to perform for a team that aspires to be the best in Europe. Making a mark in the Euroleague was another tie for first place.
As Parker enters motherhood, she’s received advice from colleagues in the WNBA community. He has spoken more with her Candace Parker, a veteran All-Star and mother of two, who offered wisdom on raising a daughter, the postpartum snapback process, and the importance of treasuring time with a newborn. So far, Cheyenne hasn’t been shy about capturing as many memories as she can, in photos and videos. He also hopes that one day he will tell Naomi about the many places he has already visited.
Parker says all this the night after his team’s 81-65 loss to Praha. Next to Tyus, she sits on a utility bench in the weight room of the Virtus practice facility. Naomi is at home resting with Bryant, who not only helps cook and clean in her Italian apartment, but also imparts many tips her daughter wouldn’t think of, like researching foods before digesting them because she’s breastfeeding Naomi’s short break may also explain Parker’s response when asked if there’s anything he wants to add about being a play parent.
“Only she’s the GOAT,” he says of his mother. “Couldn’t ask for a more helpful hand.”
Minutes later, Parker and Tyus get into their white Mercedes to finally go home. Your baby’s bedtime is just a few hours away.
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(Illustration: John Bradford / The Athletic; Left photo of Cheyenne ParkerNaomi Tyus and Verna Bryant: Courtesy of Virtus Segafredo Bologna)
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