Athlete’s Insight | Rich Stead
From a young age, Rich Stead had a passion for athletics. Initially it was European football (aka soccer) that got him hooked. But once going off to college, it wasn’t long before he began to explore other sports. “You know, I have been heavily involved in sport since a very young age, but I think most kids tend to play a lot of different sports and then specialize later. Growing up in England I went pretty much the complete opposite, playing football (soccer) exclusively until I was at university, and there I started getting into lacrosse and athletics, learning sprint mechanics, and discovered I was pretty quick compared to my friends. Like most things, if you see early development and success at a skill, you want to keep going to get better and better at it,” Rich says.
Fast forward to now and Rich still lets athletics drive his passions. “My day to day role is overseeing the success of Athletes Insight, a second year startup focused on helping individuals better themselves, and that really applies just the same whether someone in our community is starting at square one, deciding to take action to improve their life, or helping to educate and high-performance athletes through mentoring, advice and support,” Rich explains.
While Rich always was into athletics, he didn’t always consider taking it for his career path. It wasn’t until he had his aha moment that Rich knew that training was something he could do. “I was working as a sport scientist for elite athletes in the U.K., seeing what they did, what kind of benchmarks they were at, I felt I would be a really good fit as I was very self-aware and constantly interested in self-improvement and development in terms of athleticism. Then, once I was in the system, I knew that even though I might not have the best genetic ability, implementing my knowledge from my 2 degrees in the field, and experience as an athletic trainer, I could beat these guys by being smart about the way I train and why, how I can optimize every aspect of what I do to help me perform at my best, the whole 24/7 365 deal,” Rich says.
And indeed it was a great deal on Rich’s behalf. He has been able to accomplish so much. “As an athlete, I am proud of going from being an elite sport scientist to competing for my country internationally without a prior high-performance training background. Winning gold in Utah was nice but I am more intrinsically driven I think.
I will always be pleased that I have a very scientific and applied sports performance background. My education is much respected in the field, but coupled with the vast elite experience as practitioner and athlete, I feel very privileged to be in a position to be of value to a lot of people. I am proud, and honored, to serve others and help individuals on such a direct level,” Rich declares.
Rich has been able to overcome obstacles and learn many new things along his journey. First and foremost, Rich learned never to give up. “Usually when people face a big set-back they think about quitting, but honestly that just spurs me on more. I had a pretty bad bobsleigh crash in 2014 up in Calgary which shattered my collarbone into many fragments and I now have a huge plate in there, but I wasn’t going to let the years, time and sacrifice spent training go to waste, I had come too far to give up, so I spent the next year still full-time training to get back up and earn my spot back. I eventually stepped out later in my career because I had no other choice,” Rich says.
He also learned a few other pieces of advice along the way for those wanting to follow similar career paths. “I would suggest they develop a very high level of independence and discipline, because this is what is going to determine whether you stick it out and really make it. There is no point in just turning up to group sessions and doing what the group does, you can’t stop there. Otherwise how will you become better than the group? In the ultimate of competitive fields, you must look at every aspect of your world under a microscope and decide whether it is positively impacting what you are trying to achieve. If you spend your time chatting and neglecting your warmup before a session for example, you are hindering the benefits you could get from the session and are increasing your injury risk. If you really want something, to be better than anyone in the world at what you do, you can’t afford to take those liberties,” Rich advises.
Rich created ‘Athletes Insight’ while he was still competing in bobsled. In the off season he used to travel to visit his better half, a long distance runner in California. He found a dire need in the market for athletes. “They would always run in the midday sun, which to me, was crazy in that heat but also the asphalt and outdoors is astonishingly bright. I found myself squinting and sneezing a lot when we would be at the track. I noticed that the runners in the group felt it too, but weren’t doing anything about it. One person had Oakley’s but they were way too expensive for most athletes, and at the other end of the spectrum there was gas station garbage. There was a real need to develop a product that met specific criteria for athletes, such as staying in place no matter what, protecting your eyes, being super light (unnoticeable even) and unobtrusive. A bi-product was a feeling of badassery when wearing them, like a sense of invincibility as some athletes told me!.
Athletes Insight was founded through the creation of sunglasses for active individuals. The details of the glasses include no bounce, no slip, moldable to all faces, don’t need to be considered precious, but are durable and totally functional for athlete needs. They were built from the ground up based on the needs of our athletes. The feedback we have had has been phenomenal and they are genuinely preferred to more ‘expensive’ brands.
With the sunglasses as the flagship product of a company centered more on athletic culture, there are a lot of opportunities to help athletes and from our extremely humble beginnings I have always tried to find ways to do this. Whether it is through a supportive community, a free, high quality magazine, direct access to me for mentoring and support, or utilizing the power of the athletes in our community, there really is a lot available for aspiring athletes and those wanting to take their game to the next level… perhaps to our own downfall… but it really is a company created for the people, and always will be,” Rich explains.
Where do you see yourself & your brand in 10 years?
In 10 years I will be doing more consulting and mentoring, it is a real passion of mine and is at the backbone of all that I do. Much of what we do right now is aimed at supporting and guiding individuals already. Maybe I will be living in Norway too. I would like that!
You launched on Kickstarter, right? Tell me about that experience:
Kickstarter was a fantastic rollercoaster. No matter how much preparation and research you do for your first kickstarter, it will never be enough. And be wise to the companies that claim to ‘help you’ secure funding- that was a piece of advice that really helped me be wise to the unseen world of it. I think it is a great platform for testing the demand for your idea. That is something we struggled with at first- we knew we had developed a great and unique product, but people needed to experience it to see for themselves. Now a lot of people have and we couldn’t have been more thrilled with the feedback.
What are you reading these days?
Too many emails and not enough books, unfortunately!