Annie Flamsteed is on a mission to improve the physical and mental wellbeing of young athletes.
She’s the founder and CEO of iNSPIRE SPORT, a game-changing app that supports young athletes to stay mentally and physically strong in the highly pressured world of sport.
“We are on a mission to not only de-stigmatise mental illness in athletes of all ages but to also give them the educational tools they need to improve their mental health, their performance and their overall quality of life,” Flamsteed told Women’s Agenda.
The goal of iNSPIRE SPORT is to work with clubs, sports bodies and individuals to deliver wellness workshops for athletes before inviting them to download the app, which provides a wealth of evidence-based content and data-driven insights into the overall well-being of athletes.
Annie grew up as an elite gymnast so understands the pressures young athletes face on a day-to-day basis. Her own experiences of injuries, burn out and psychological stress played a major role in her decision to start iNSPIRE SPORT.
“Athletes are always on show; they must be confident and there is little room for them to admit they’re struggling.”
Below, Annie tells Women’s Agenda about her personal experiences as a gymnast, what led her to start her iNSPIRE and why cutting the stigma around mental illness is so essential in the sporting world.
Can you tell us a little about what it was like growing up as a competitive, elite gymnast?
It was intense, but amazing at the same time. I had to learn to be very disciplined, and how to focus on why I was doing it to get me through at times. It was hard when my friends didn’t have to train 30 hours a week and I did, but it was so amazing to have the opportunity to do so. I guess I learnt time management and I do believe it made me more resilient even though at times I struggled mentally. Being an athlete of any kind gives you opportunities that you wouldn’t otherwise get, and I am grateful for that, there is no way I would be doing what I am doing if I didn’t grow up in elite sport.
Did you always know you wanted to pursue the sport?
Yes, and no… I have and always will love sport, but there were times I wanted to be a physio, a dietitian or a psychologist. I think health is more the thing I knew I always wanted to pursue. Anything to do with health interests me, especially if it’s around improving another person’s health. I genuinely think if you are healthy, you have the world at your feet and can achieve anything you want to, so with success being one of my values, health naturally is as well.
Did any of your personal experiences play a role in your decision to create iNSPIRE Sport?
Absolutely, my own personal experience as an athlete struggling with injury, burn out and psychological stress was majorly what lead me to iNSPIRE Sport! This combined with the research out there showing how big of an issue mental illness, psychological 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 must 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.
You’re only 23 and you’ve founded your own impressive business and are the CEO of iNSPIRE Sport. Have you faced any challenges in the process of establishing yourself as a businesswoman? How have you worked around these challenges?
Absolutely…. I think I have only just started this journey really. For me the challenges were more around worrying I wasn’t good enough, balancing my stress and having the guts to just go for it. I haven’t looked back since finally making my mind up about it.
The challenges any startup founder faces were present, like time and stress management, fear, doubt, raising investment, closing sales, hiring, firing etc. What got me through was surrounding myself with people better than me or who had done it before and really asking them for honest advice and feedback. I think learning from the successes and challenges others face is the only way to get anywhere in life, particularly in business, so I make it a priority to surround myself with these people and educate myself in other ways too.
I think I have many challenges to come my way, the business is still so young and so am I, but I am so lucky to have such amazing support and mentoring networks around me. The Brisbane startup scene is a great support also, there are loads of founders going through what I am and it always helps to talk to them.
Young athletes are facing unprecedented rates of mental illness. How does iNSPIRE Sport work to help individuals manage their mental health while immersed in the highly pressured world of sport?
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 and 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 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.
Why did you decide to deliver iNSPIRE Sport in the format of an app? What advantages does this sort of technology bring to your business?
Accessibility was the biggest advantage I saw in it. Our users (teenage athletes) are always on their phones and it was a great way to scale our products and services as opposed to having to do it all face to face. Through technology, we can change millions of lives in a year, something we couldn’t do if we had to travel around and see each athlete.
What advice would you offer other young women who are interested in establishing their own business, particularly in the world of tech?
Honestly? Just do it. But before you do so, make sure you believe wholeheartedly in what you’re doing, why you’re doing it and why someone should buy it. If you don’t know those three things, it’s going to be a longer, tougher road than normal! And lastly, of course, surround yourself with people who have done it before, and are doing it now. I have learnt so much from my peers and people before me- the best advice I was ever given.