Ama Agbeze on managing emotions, connections and Commonwealth Games
By Emma Thurston
Last Updated: 18/05/20 12:09pm
Ama Agbeze discusses managing emotions, connections and her new role on the Commonwealth Games England Board ahead of the 2022 games in Birmingham.
After a pre-season with new franchise Severn Stars, and starting the new Superleague term, finding a home with her husband was the next port of call for Agbeze. Yet, like so many others across the country, that plan had to be put on hold.
"We were going to move to Worcester, and we'd looked at a place on the day of our last game there [Stars versus Wasps]," she said to Sky Sports.
"The landlord was still renovating it and it was quite run-down. I said to my husband, why don't we just take it? We'll move in and then we can help do it up alongside the landlord. Now, I'm just thinking, thank goodness we didn't do that!"
Not only are Agbeze and husband Fred not covered in dust or struggling with quite significant DIY projects right now, they're able to be close to the netballer's family. With her mum and sister both working in the Care sector, being together in Birmingham is extremely important.
With regard to her on-court family, the 'Class of 2020' at Severn Stars are a relatively new unit in comparison to others within the Vitality Netball Superleague.
Melissa Bessell arrived as head coach ahead of the start of the season and the experienced coach introduced a number of new faces into the group - Agbeze being one of them.
With some of their own friendships and relationships as team-mates still being in their infancy at the time of the league's postponement, the group have developed and learnt together during this lockdown period.
"We've gone around between us and made sure that we're touching base with each other as people," Agbeze shared.
"I think it got to a stage where everybody wasn't quite fully sharing how they were feeling.
"Everybody was kind of struggling but nobody really said it. Sometimes you don't always share all of your personal feelings with your team-mates, but we've all put it out there now. We've all said how we are feeling and we're able to support each other more as a result."
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Agbeze also shared a reservation which many others might be feeling during these uncertain times. The belief that your own challenges are 'lighter' than others' out there, and as a result don't need to be shared. However, her perspective on this assertion is an important one.
"I always think everything is relative to you," she said.
"Something that you might say to me, which is concerning you and that you're finding really challenging, might not be something that's bothering me or would bother me. But, it is still really important because it's having a huge impact on your well-being.
"I always think of it being like when a young child loses their favourite toy. Those looking in will say that they have plenty of others to enjoy, but to that child this is the most important one.
"Everyone's situations are unique to them and they're important to share with people you feel comfortable in doing so."
Supporting those around her is something that Agbeze knows all about. In the Vitality Roses recent Commonwealth Games reunion call, Tracey Neville praised her leadership as a captain and the way in which she always made the players feel valued.
"I wanted to make sure, irrespective of how much someone trained or what they did, it was more about them as a person and that they were right in themselves," Agbeze said.
"That would then lead to them feeling good and delivering a good performance.
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"It is quite hard to do sometimes," she added, linking back to the here and now." I've been struggling myself at the moment so then it's hard to reach out to other people. But, I've been trying to message two people every day though, to see how they're going.
"I know when someone reaches out to me, even with just a heart emoji, that's enough to know that they're thinking about you."
By the very nature of their careers, sportsmen and women have a great detail of structure in their normal day-to-day lives, and often have every second of their day planned out.
From those juggling work alongside training sessions to those who are fully professional, athletes' diaries are set. Adjusting to life without that, is a challenge.
"I think if I didn't have my own training to do, then I would find it even more challenging. But, like many netballers, I train to play and I'm really missing the playing bit right now!
"Outside of netball I often go into schools and business, and attend speaking events and that's not possible at the moment. I've been doing some elements remotely - dialling into board meetings - but like everyone I'm missing connecting with people face-to-face."
A new project for Agbeze, which has just been announced, is her presence on the Commonwealth Games England Board. She is an athlete representative on the board alongside swimmer Aimee Willmott and Ali Jawad, and part of the remit of her current role is the vital area of athletes' kit.
"There are more than 600 athletes and staff who will need kit, and a real range from young gymnasts to those at the other end of the age spectrum like the 79-year-old who took part in the lawn bowls at the 2014 Games.
"All of the key areas will be handed by the group including the colour pallet and designs, but the most-important thing will be ensuring that what's delivered is fit for athletes' performances.
"Whenever I've put on an England dress, I want it to feel special and feel like it's amazing, but then forget about it. I don't want to have to interact with my dress again after that. As an athlete it's vital that what you're performing in is going to do its job."
Today we donated items of #TeamEngland kit from the #GC2018 Commonwealth Games to St Bart’s hospital for NHS staff unable to return to their homes.— Team England (@TeamEngland) April 16, 2020
We are in awe of everybody on the frontline & hope our small contribution will help those working day in, day out to save lives. pic.twitter.com/qVe18CfXU0
Agbeze has been to three Commonwealth Games competitions, the first being in Melbourne in 2006 and the latest on the Gold Coast two years' ago. As you'd expect, Team England's success is important to her.
"I'm excited that it's multi-sport so I'll get to learn a lot about other sports and come at it from a different perspective myself.
"With all of the other people on the board and their experiences, it should come together to mean that Team England are successful.
"It's all about trying to think about everything that goes in and around the Games before things happen. That way, we already have a response which means we deal with anything and the athletes can just perform."
When it comes to Birmingham 2022, from a netball perspective Team England will be the defending champions. After leading them to their greatest success in 2018, will she be on court in a few years' time?
"I'd love to; it's my home town. At the moment though, I'm taking every day as it comes," one by one, the defender said.
"It does seem very far away right now, but I realise that it will be here before I know it. For now, I'm looking at this period in front of me and hopefully at a Superleague competition ahead."