The pressure on young athletes to perform can have absolutely devastating results — young entrepreneur Annie Flamsteed decided to do something about it.
Flamsteed (pictured, left), founder and CEO of iNSPIRE Sport, created an app that provides young athletes and their clubs access to expert content and guidance on a range of wellness issues including sports science, psychology and nutrition.
B&T had the opportunity to ask Flamsteed about the app, and her views on the mental and physical wellbeing of young athletes.
What is iNSPIRE Sport, and how can it help young athletes?
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.
How were you inspired to create this app?
My own personal experience as an athlete struggling with injury, burn out and psychological stress combined with the research out there showing how big of an issue mental illness, physiological burnout 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 a lot 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.
The app looks to tackle physical challenges, as well as mental or emotional. What are some of the physical challenges that young athletes face?
On top of the daily grind athletes encounter as they mature into senior or professional athletes, the physical pressures of growing have to be considered when working with young athletes.
Their bodies are growing and developing, they’re maturing and they’re also trying to recover from all the hectic training they’re doing.
Some athletes neglect recovery, stretching and injury management until it’s too late, that’s what we are trying to fix with the iNSPIRE App and programs — to intervene early and actually make a difference to the physical and mental health of our athletes.
In today’s information era, we are constantly fed updates from the sporting world. Do you think this negatively shapes young athletes, who receive a frequent reminder of the expectations at a professional level and may be moulding themselves based on a perceived image?
Absolutely, I think that there is already a stigma around mental health and it seeming weak or uncool to struggle.
I think that as a community we are getting better at breaking down some of these walls for adults and the general population, but not so much for young people and especially, not at all for young athletes.
I think the media portrays athletes as being strong, confident and successful 24/7.
Which in reality, they are, they’re amazing.
But I also think that what this does is makes it impossible for young athletes (and old!) to feel as though they can admit they’re struggling and reach out for help.
With the app, and the #iNSPIREMOVEMENT, we hope to break down these walls, get athletes talking about and accepting that its ok not to be ok… and still be an athlete.
I think we can do it…. We are proving that we can already, and I am so grateful for the athletes young and old who are jumping on board and helping us spread this movement.
By their very nature, sports are competitive. However, would you say that the media is part of the reason why there is so much pressure to perform? Do you think that the media highlights promising young athletes in a way that is exploitative?
No, not really, to be an athlete you have to be on show all of the time, and you do have a responsibility to react positively to the pressure of competition and learn over time to use it to motivate you and help you to succeed as an individual and in a team.
However, I do think that the media could help athletes to feel a bit more supported by society and allow them to be competitive, confident and successful — but also reach out for help when they need.
Our plan is that the iNSPIRE App and our programs give young athletes the tools to deal with this pressure.
I think it’s less about blaming the media, and more about giving the athletes tools for resilience and management of their mental health and performance.
What are some things you wish you had known earlier in your own sporting experiences, that you hope that you can tell current and future generations?
I just wish I knew it was normal to feel these pressures, and that there was support out there if I needed.
I wish I knew that anxiety and performance stress can actually be used to my advantage and I wish I knew other athletes were going through it.
There wasn’t an iNSPIRE out there when I was training, but if there was, I wish I knew about it and I wish I had the tools to help me and the confidence to admit I needed support.