A young entrepreneur who personally experienced the highs and lows of junior competitive sport has launched a ground-breaking app in a bid to provide aspiring athletes with the life skills needed to succeed both in and out of the sporting arena.
Former elite gymnast Annie Flamsteed, 23, has spent the past two years researching, piloting and redesigning iNSPIRE SPORT, which gives young athletes and their clubs access to expert content and guidance on a range of wellness issues including sports science, psychology and nutrition.
The app, which also features software that allows users to track their wellness data and be rewarded for positive behaviours, was officially launched on Saturday 9 February at Fortitude Valley's Lightspace.
Ms Flamsteed, the founder and CEO of iNSPIRE SPORT, said her vision for the app was born out of the struggles she faced as a champion junior gymnast in her home town of Toowoomba.
"I had everything – supportive parents, a great coach, access to psychologists and dietitians – but it still wasn't enough," she said.
"I was fit, muscly and bubbly on the outside but on the inside, I was struggling with anxiety, restricting my food intake, cracking under pressure and not sleeping well. Then I went to university and not only burned out but dropped out of the sport I once loved.
"I came to realise that the pressure associated with junior sport and adolescent life in general can become a huge struggle for some athletes – even at the grassroots level - and I decided I wanted to change the lives of young people."
Alongside Chloe Watson, her former coach and now Chief Operating Officer, Ms Flamsteed has recruited a line-up of experts including psychologists, dietitians and exercise physiologists to devise validated content and courses for both young athletes and clubs.
"While the app will benefit all users, we are targeting aspiring athletes aged 10 to 20 and their sporting organisations, be they elite, competitive or grassroots," she said.
"Our goal is to work with clubs and sports bodies and deliver wellness workshops for their athletes before inviting them to download the app, which provides the youngsters with a wealth of information and the clubs with data-driven insights into their athletes' collective wellbeing.
"With the first month free and then only $2 per month, our subscriptions have been priced to provide children and families with affordable access to an elite level of athlete performance content."
Ms Watson said her passion for the project was not only driven by her experiences as a former gymnastics coach but more recent events.
"Since becoming a mother and watching what so many kids go through, I want to minimise the risks for my daughter when it comes to psychology, diet and exercise – and I have no doubt this resource will achieve that," she said.
Ms Flamsteed added: "Sport is a wonderful tool for empowering people of all ages but without education and support, the pressure can build and present mental struggles that cause young athletes to lose the love of their sport, and sadly give it up. I know what it's like to crack under that pressure and want to give children and their clubs the life skills they need to succeed both on and off the sporting field." iNSPIRE SPORT provides the innovative solution for athletes, clubs and even state and national sporting bodies.
For more, visit www.inspiresportonline.com
Question: What is iNSPIRE SPORT?
Annie Flamsteed: - From a technological perspective, iNSPIRE Sport is a mobile app that allows young athletes to access heaps of wellbeing programs in the areas of Sports Psychology, Sports Science, Sports Nutrition & General Health whilst allowing them to track their wellness to give coaches insight into how they're feeling mentally and physically. However, it is so much more than that to us and to our athletes and customers. iNSPIRE Sport is a movement spreading awareness for mental health and health in general to young athletes globally. We are on a mission to not only destigmatise mental illness in athletes of all ages but to also give them the educational tools they need to actually improve their mental health, their performance and their overall quality of life. At the end of the day we provide sporting clubs, coaches and athletes with an educational solution combined with a biometric health tracking system all in one mobile app.
Question: What inspired you to create iNSPIRE SPORT?
Annie Flamsteed: - My own personal experience as an athlete struggling with injury, burn out and psychological stress combined with the research out their showing how big of an issue mental illness, physiological burn out and dropout rates are in athletes not just in Australia but Globally too! As a society we are doing a much better job of destigmatising mental illness in the adult population, but there is still not allot out there for young people, let alone young athletes. Athletes are always on show, they have to be confident and there is little room for them to admit they're struggling. I am inspired to change this, and give athletes a chance to 1. Speak up if they're struggling and 2. Access the tools they need to make progress through our app.
Question: What do you hope to achieve with the iNSPIRE SPORT app?
Annie Flamsteed: This year our goal is 1 million lives positively affected by our software & programs. However long term, I hope for us to become the brand and solution that people think of when they think about athlete wellbeing and athlete mental health and something that is used by athletes on a global scale. I hope to start a foundation for less fortunate young people to access not only our programs and resources, but also to have access to sports facilities and coaching if they can't already access it. Our goal is to have clinics all around the place also offering face to face support for young athletes, and there is nothing stopping us from re-creating a version of iNSPIRE for the general population and other age groups too- that's the end goal, to positively affect as many lives as we can.
Question: How long have you been working on iNSPIRE SPORT?
Annie Flamsteed: I started this journey in 2014 with a small personal training business for young women and teenagers called iNSPIRE BY Annie. On the side of iNSPIRE Sport, the real work began in 2017. It's been a really cool journey and realising that my forte is connecting and engaging with young athletes has been the best realisation to this date. It has allowed me to really hone in on where I can make an impact, and then create a solution for this market as opposed to just young people in general.
Question: Can you tell us about the experts who feature in the iNSPIRE SPORT app?
Annie Flamsteed: Currently we have an in house Psychologist, and in hours Exercise Scientist and an in house Dietician. They create and feature in the content and we are currently creating specific and more engaging content that is hosted by world class athletes and guest health professionals.
Question: What advice do you have for young aspiring athletes?
Annie Flamsteed: My number one piece of advice is to look after yourself outside of training hours. So often athletes work extremely hard in training and competition, but neglect their mental health and physical recovery. It's easy for athletes, particularly young athletes to only focus on their physical training, but as they get older they will realise there is so much more to it and its extremely beneficial to create these habits young in order to feel and perform better at the top end.
Question: What's a typical day like, for you?
Annie Flamsteed: I am a creature of habit, so my mornings are always filled with some kind of exercise, a coffee and either yoga or mindfulness (even if its five minutes while I sit on the ferry!) Although, habits or not, my life is a little crazy at the moment so the days are long and full of exciting (and sometimes stressful) situations. At the moment, due to time differences with some of our staff, my mornings start at 4am and include skype calls and decision making followed by a long day of meetings and work that doesn't usually finish until 9pm. I make sure my days always include exercise, a bit of sunshine and a super healthy diet otherwise I am unable to do what I need to do each day to run this business. My days are big, but it feels good to know I am doing something good. One of my favourite quotes is, "to love what you do, and feel that it matters, could life be any more fun?!"
Interview by Brooke Hunter