Connecting Communities through Tech: the 5-time Olympic Gold Medalist who launched an App for young gymnasts

Nastia helping a young gymnast on the balance beam at International Gymnastics Camp

When most people think of Nastia Liukin, they think: gymnast, Olympic Gold Medalist, athlete. When we think of Nastia here at Raizlabs, we think: entrepreneur and mentor. Years ago we were introduced to Nastia Liukin and her Co-Founder Matt Lombardi, also a professional athlete. They approached Raizlabs seeking a strategic partner, to discuss their aspirations for the athletic youth community and how it could benefit from technology.

Matt Lombardi has a history as a hockey player, having advanced from the team at Boston College to the professional level for a number of years. Nastia has won 5 Olympic medals throughout her professional career. Both athletes grew up with mentors available to them and a strong community that provided support.

But how has modern technology affected mentorship and community for young athletes? With platforms like Facebook and Instagram, as long as they have a smartphone, young athletes have access to many users both within and outside their communities. During the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Nastia witnessed how excited young gymnasts were by their mentors and role models and was interested to know how she and her teammates could engage with young gymnasts.  Matt and Nastia heard of concerns from coaches and parents across gyms all over the country and wanted to provide a platform that would allow young athletes to socialize with each other, gain support and advice from their mentors, and build a larger community, while maintaining their privacy in a safe place on a large scale. That’s why they decided to reach out to Raizlabs for help building an app.

The iOS app, called Grander, was designed and developed to help inspire young athletes to aspire to their goals. As of now the application has been kept solely to the gymnastics community, though there are plans to expand to other athletic specialties in the future. Matt and Nastia began testing using a private Instagram at first and went on foot to gyms in the greater Boston area, to hear what both the young gymnasts as well as their parents thought of the idea. In this case, the platform has two different sets of users.

5 different iOS screen views of the Grander iOS app

Today, Grander’s young gymnasts are thoroughly vetted through an application process and the community extends beyond the app. Nastia and her fellow mentors are nurturing their communities both within the app and in-person, with live events like their Grander Summit 2017. The goal is for the community to continue growing while bridging the gap between the mentors and the young athletes.

“As a young gymnast, I always craved any kind of information from my gymnastics idols. I searched the internet and spent hours watching YouTube videos trying to learn as much as I could from my heroes. Today, as a mentor on Grander, I put myself back in the shoes of a young aspiring gymnast, and try to give them as much of my gymnastics knowledge as I can that I learned throughout my competitive career,” Nastia says.

And Nastia is contributing to sports outside gymnastics as well. She recently donated an autographed leotard from her signature collection to be auctioned off at a Raizlabs event, with 100% of the proceeds benefiting Pelotonia, a biking non-profit based in Columbus, Ohio that has raised over $130 million dollars to fund cancer research, aiming to end the disease.

You can learn more about Nastia and the Grander community here and if you’re curious to know about the agency behind the app, get in touch!

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