Commonwealth Games-winning captain Ama Agbeze hailed the importance of good mental health to being a successful athlete as she looked to inspire the next generation alongside royalty.

Agbeze, who led England’s netballers to an historic gold at the 2018 Gold Coast Games, shared her experiences of elite sport with a number of young athletes at a mind health workshop organised by SportsAid last Thursday.

The Birmingham-born defender was joined by the Prince and Princess of Wales, the charity’s patron, as some of the UK’s most exciting young athletes discussed the importance of developing a resilient mindset and managing mental health amidst the pressure of sport.

Agbeze revealed she wished she had been more confident to reach out for help earlier in her career, before building a mental toughness that helped win gold five years ago.

“The mental aspect of not just sport but everybody is so important,” said Agbeze, who is a SportsAid trustee.

“We do really focus on the physical side of athletes in training but everything comes from your mind, so it is really important to have a strong mind.

“Sometimes your mind isn’t in the best position so we need to have techniques and tactics to help us overcome those times and help our performance.

“Mental health has come to the fore a lot more than when I first started my career. Even still now there are still challenges.

“At the start of my career, I wasn’t confident to speak about how I was feeling so a lot of times I would bottle up thoughts when I was struggling, try and cope and end up in a downwards spiral.

“I have had real challenges with my mental health throughout my netball career and sometimes it can be hard to spot.

“I tried to mask it as you are dealing with pressure for selection so you don’t want to give selectors another opportunity to not select you. If I look back, I would have performed better if I had got support. 

“A lot of times in my career, the times that I shared were the times where I was at rock bottom. I tried to cope and do the best I could, but it got to the point where I had no choice but to speak to someone.

“I would encourage athletes now to just speak out, things are more open, and people do understand. You are there to perform and they want to aid your performance.”

Agbeze shared her experiences with a host of young athletes whose progress is supported by SportsAid in the form of vital funding as well as through workshops that seek to imbue vital skills on the next generation of stars.

She was joined by rowing legend Sir Matthew Pinsent, Paralympic star Ellie Simmonds and current GB hockey player and Olympic champion Shona McCallin in offering advice to the young athletes, and ran a netball shooting session which saw the Prince and Princess of Wales both get involved.

Tim Lawler MBE, SportsAid’s Chief Executive, said: “The support of The Prince and Princess is really special and exciting. 

“The Princess, as our Patron, has been so supportive and we know this is a topic she is hugely passionate about. 

“Both The Prince and Princess have been invited to join us and committed their time as a Patron – they engaged and shared their experiences with the athletes, who were also able to hear from multiple Olympic and Paralympic champions about their own personal experiences. 

“We are now ramping up our work around mental health and wellbeing. This a key space we need to move into – it’s an unmet need and it’s understood by athletes. 

“This event today is not just a one-off – it was a hugely fun day but we want to do even more heading into next year to further enhance our support for our athletes around health and wellbeing.”

SportsAid is seeking support from individuals and organisations to allow the charity to invest further in its mental health and wellbeing initiatives. Please contact Serena Castiglione, Head of Fundraising at SportsAid, on if you would like to help provide talented young athletes, as well as their families, with the support and advice they need at a key time in their development.