Black Ferns player says coaching comments contributed to mental breakdown
Black Ferns hooker Te Kura Ngata-Aerengamate says she had a breakdown on tour after disparaging comments from coaching staff.
7th December, 2021
Black Ferns hooker Te Kura Ngata-Aerengamate says she had a breakdown on tour and disparaging comments from coaching staff led to anxiety and hyperventilation.
Northland player Ngata-Aerengamate posted on social media that she had a "mental breakdown" on the team's end of year tour to England and France.
The Black Ferns lost all four games on tour.
Ngata-Aerengamate, of Cook Island Māori and Ngāti Porou, said she struggled to decide whether to speak up or not.
She said in the post: "Never would I have ever thought that I would become mentally ill in a sport that I loved so much."
Ngata-Aerengamate said she did not perform the way she wanted on tour and believed her form over the past few years hadn't been her best.
She said her mental health had been affected.
"Over the past 8 years that I have been in the Black Ferns, I have struggled mentally and finally let it all out on the most recent tour.
"Yes, I had a mental breakdown in front of everyone."
In the Instagram post, the hooker said comments made by Black Ferns coaches contributed to the decline of her mental health.
"Throughout the years these were some comments made by head coach," Ngata-Aerengamate posted.
- That I had been selected but didn't deserve to be in the team.
- That he was embarrassed for me
- I was told that he couldn't tell my worth in the Blackferns
- I was told what would my students think of me?
- I was sworn at for wearing my jacket around my hips, I was yelled at running to rucks, how I ran the ball, anything I did I felt I was doing wrong.
- a recent comment that I was picked only to play the guitar
Ngata-Aerengamate, a veteran of the Black Ferns said after those comments she "ended up going crazy", had to complete anger management counselling and discovered she had been suffering from anxiety and hyperventilation for the first time in her life.
She wrote: "I could hear these comments in my mind as I threw the ball. My confidence and self esteem was so low that it made me play like I was walking on egg shells and was constantly too scared to express myself. I invited self doubt and insecurities; some being unbearable to look myself in the mirror.
"I had forgotten about the 5-year-old girl who started playing rugby with her cousins 25 years ago.
"I let the words over the years get to me, the words became the flesh."
Ngata-Aerengamate said she has a message for others struggling with mental health.
"Lesson is, never let anyone dim your light. Be proud of who you are. If you are treated unfairly, hit them up unapologetically because at the end of the day it's your mana on the line.
"I know I'm not everyone's cup of tea, but I'm still a person and at the very least deserve to be treated with respect.
"Now I'm on a journey of healing.
"Stand up. Speak up. Know your worth."
RNZ has asked New Zealand Rugby for comment. - RNZ