Ama Agbeze MBE, part of the England Roses netball team and experienced in both the domestic Vitality Superleague and the ANZ Championship down under, is calling for volunteers to help out at the 2022 Commonwealth Games in Birmingham.
Agbeze is currently playing for the Northern Mystics in New Zealand, which meant she passed on an opportunity to return to the Superleague - but with good reason, which she explained to Female First.
The 38-year-old board member of the 2022 Commonwealth Games also spoke about how excited she is to welcome the event to her hometown and revealed how she “fell into netball.”
Of the three Commonwealth Games you've competed in, which was your favourite and why?
I'd be hard pressed to pick out a favourite. They were all very different in terms of location (Melbourne, Glasgow, Gold Coast), experience and responsibility level (wide eyed - first games, more experienced team member, captain), level of attainment (3rd, 4th, 1st). Many people just look at the result and expect that the gold medal games would be the best, but I wouldn't necessarily single those games out. For example, I really enjoyed the whole Games experience in Glasgow.
How did it feel to be awarded an MBE for your services to netball?
The MBE came somewhat out of the blue. I felt privileged, as I know so many people who have worked and volunteered tirelessly with netball and deserve recognition.
Do you think you're living the life you dreamt of when you were younger, in terms of being able to play netball professionally, for a huge variety of clubs and for England?
I wouldn't say I was one of those children who had dreams of being a sports person, although I watched a lot of sport on TV and used to hope one day to go to the Olympics. It didn't transpire into a constant longing, like a lot of young people who say they want to be netballers or footballers now and do things to pursue their goal. I almost feel as though I fell into netball and the opportunities it has given me, in as much as I was a talented athlete and one thing led to another along the pathway.
What's it like to be back playing in New Zealand with the Northern Mystics and what was it about the Mystics which convinced you to turn down another season in the Vitality Superleague?
The contract with Mystics came about because I happened to be in the right place at the right time. It is as an injury replacement player for Michaela Sockolich - Beatson. My husband is from New Zealand, and I was in the country. Turning down a season in the Vitality Superleague was more difficult for me than I realised it would be. But it has meant that I've been able to spend 7 more months with my husband than if I'd headed back to theUK. This period has been the longest continuous time we have ever spent together; it's been great.
How great is it to have the Commonwealth Games held here in the UK when they come to your hometown of Birmingham next year?
I am excited that Birmingham gets to play host. There is so much to showcase about the city and region; but we get overlooked by people focusing on London and thinking Manchester is the 2nd city.
The population of Birmingham is representative of the modern Commonwealth, with the extent of its cultural diversity, so the city is a fitting host, and I can't wait for the world to focus on my hometown.
How do you think the home advantage will impact English athletes?
Home advantage is almost immeasurable. A crowd can provide lift and an energy that is difficult to explain or replicate. It is something you have to feel. Knowing it is for you helps you channel that energy. Those athletes not at home may work on trying to imagine the support is aimed at them, but knowing it is for you, takes away that additional element and gives a psychological advantage.
Are you hoping to welcome in fans at full capacity next year and how great would it be to have that support?
The aim is to have full capacity crowds. In just over a year hopefully that is where things have got to, and lockdowns and social distancing are a distant (no pun intended) memory. The Games can be a celebration of us all freely coming together.
How crucial are volunteers at Commonwealth Games events?
Volunteers make the Games. They are the ones that create the vibe and spirit that spectators and athletes feel around Games time. They're the first thing you'll experience at a Games and often the last as well. Without volunteers the Games cannot happen; the sheer number of volunteers needed is enough to make people realise that. Volunteers fulfil roles such as meet/greet, first aid, drivers, kit carriers, media centre assistants and much more, with training provided. There's also a few skilled volunteer roles, ie doctors, chiropractors, physios.
Birmingham 2022 are now searching for 13,000 volunteers to join the Commonwealth Collective, so what would your message be to people who are thinking about signing up to help?
It is a great opportunity to be part of something huge - the largest sporting and cultural event ever held in Birmingham and the wider Midlands Region. It is a way to make new friends, interact with people you wouldn't necessarily have the opportunity to interact with typically, learn new skills and have something different to put on a CV, and create memories. There are 300 different types of roles; most of which you don't need any skills for, as training will be given. So, head to www.birmingham2022.com and follow the prompts to register your interest.
It would be great if people could start applying as soon as possible. As you can imagine it is going to take a long time to sift through applications, so the sooner these start coming in the better. Also, you have to be over 18 on 1 Jan 2022 and be able to speak English. We do want people who can speak other languages though, because we want to welcome the world and make them feel at home, and what better way than to do so than in their native tongue?
Ama Agbeze was speaking at the launch of the volunteering applications for the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games. Apply now to volunteer and become part of the Commonwealth Collective at: https://www.birmingham2022.com/.
Words by Lucy Roberts for Female First. Follow Lucy on Twitter @Lucy_Roberts_72.