England netball legend Ama Agbeze MBE, a Commonwealth Games gold and bronze medallist, shares with us what accessibility and inclusion means to her as she reflects on her sporting journey….
"The theme of accessibility and inclusion is vital. If athletes can't access things, then they can't achieve anything. They need opportunities to know what is open to them and what paths they can take in life. SportsAid supporting that is so key because until you shine a light on the barriers athletes face, people won't know about them.
"These days it's become more common for people to realise that there are different perspectives in the world which are just as important - so shining a light on accessibility and inclusion can help young athletes to have open conversations and realise that things still aren't equal for everybody. Hopefully those conversations can help open doors for the future.
"It's all about understanding what different athletes need. Depending on location, race, age, gender or sexual orientation….people need different support and opportunities. So, it's important for athletes to share their stories and hear each other talk about the barriers they have faced.
"Sometimes you think you're going through something by yourself, and you don't realise that there are other people experiencing the same thing. I think that's what's so exciting about SportsAid Week, as it allows for these conversations and opportunities. It also allows for organisations to meet the athletes and make that personal connection.
"It's a very exciting thing to be part of SportsAid because there is a constant cycle of new athletes coming through that could be the next big thing. But to just support these athletes as people as well is so important. They love their sport, and the governing body can help them within their sport, but there are still so many other aspects to being a sports person and SportsAid can help this.
"Whether that's helping them understanding time management, giving them media training and support, nutritional advice, guidance on sleep….it’s invaluable and it's exciting to see those athletes come into SportsAid at the start of their journeys and then grow. Some people go onto the world stage and become that incredible world-class athlete but the others still get that experience which is great.
"The fundraising element is one of my favourite parts of SportsAid Week. I went to the wheelchair basketball competition last year and, I might have been a netballer, but it was so challenging to try shooting sitting down! I switched to become a defender in netball for a reason and it reminded me why.
"As a young athlete it can be overwhelming because you are going through your journey, and you are desperate for success. But I think that the support that SportsAid provides is invaluable. Looking back at my career on the netball court, I wish I had the opportunity to experience the learnings, teachings and relationships that SportsAid allows you to build with your fellow athletes in different sports.
“I always had the chance to connect with other netballers but not as much with athletes from different sports which I think is a great opportunity to see new perspectives and hear new voices. It all comes back to creating that inclusive environment. I would say to every SportsAid athlete that it’s vital to absorb in all of this information because it will become useful in the future as we learn how to develop sport and create an inclusive and accessible environment for all."
SportsAid Week 2023 is a dedicated week of fun and awareness-raising based around the theme of accessibility and inclusion. Please visit www.sportsaid.org.uk/our-work/sportsaid-week.