The lover girls podcast was created by two best friends, Kate Grasman and Julie Moore to encourage meaningful conversations surrounding mental health and wellness. Both Kate and Julie were student-athletes and members of the Toronto Metropolitan University (TMU) Women’s Volleyball team. The Bell Let’s Talk movement was the initial inspiration for the podcast as it encourages student-athletes to talk about mental health and to end the stigma surrounding mental illnesses. Most student-athletes are familiar with the movement, however, we wanted to take it a step further and share our own stories on a more personal level as well as provide a platform for other student-athletes to talk about their experiences with their own mental health struggles.
Kate is from a small town south of London, Ontario. She has always played sports from a young age but focussed on volleyball starting at the age of 13. Her older sister played volleyball at the USports level for Western University so Kate was exposed to the world of collegiate volleyball from a young age and made it her goal to be like her sister and play in university as well. In grade twelve Kate committed to play with Toronto Metropolitan University and was accepted into the Early Childhood Studies program at TMU with the hopes that she could eventually work with young children. Aer taking a few mandatory psychology courses over her first two years she fell in love with the discipline and was overwhelmed with the amount of information she was learning. It opened her eyes to some of the realities of mental health, addictions, and the intersection of sport performance and the brain. Although it was too late to switch majors, Kate decided to minor in psychology and continue to explore the various opportunities that the discipline provides and learn as much as she could about the discipline.
When Kate and Julie met in the fall of 2022 they instantly became very close friends as a lot of their passions and worldviews aligned closely. They had the opportunity to have many conversations surrounding their own mental health journeys, struggles, and triumphs over the years and this encouraged both of them to continue to dive deeper into what it means to be a student-athlete and keep wellness at the forefront of their lives.
Julie was born and raised in Halifax, Nova Scotia. She comes from a very athletic family, with her mother playing on the National Team and competing in the Olympic games in 1984 for Team Canada, and her father playing professional hockey in Europe. She grew up playing hockey, basketball, and lacrosse but fell in love with volleyball at the age of 12. She grew up watching the Dalhousie Tigers and knew it would one day be a goal of hers to play varsity volleyball. She completed her Bachelor of Commerce Degree at Dalhousie University where she majored in marketing management while she competed for the Dalhousie Tigers Women’s Volleyball team. She finished her undergrad with one more year of eligibility and decided to apply to various master’s programs. The TMU Masters of Arts in Fashion Studies immediately caught her eye, and she was elated to be accepted into the program and awarded a scholarship. When Julie joined the TMU Bold team, she immediately felt so welcomed and supported by the coaches and the girls on the team. In her Masters of Fashion Studies, she studied the sexualization of women’s volleyball players and learned about the embodiment of the uniform. She started having discussions with girls on the team about their own opinions on the uniform and how it has impacted their confidence while competing.
In the middle of January, Julie’s mental health was at an all-time low, and she had to take a step back from school and volleyball to focus on her mental health. In her time off, she began researching other athletes who were openly talking about mental health and was shocked at the statistics surrounding mental illness, stigma, and access to therapy and counseling services. She asked Kate, her best friend and teammate if she would start a podcast with her to share her story in hopes of helping other athletes. Kate agreed and the first episode was posted on February 3rd. We didn’t have a clear plan of what the podcast would turn into, but we knew it was important to join the conversation.
The first few episodes we released were mainly focused on our own struggles with mental health, we talked about our struggles with depression, anxiety, and eating disorders. A couple of days after our launch, other athletes on various varsity teams would approach us and share their own experiences and talk about how much they loved the podcast. We began to gain confidence and momentum with every new episode we posted. We were lucky enough to have some of our former and current teammates and friends talk about their struggles with depression, anxiety, eating disorders, body image, intergenerational trauma, and addiction.
We also were able to create podcast merchandise (https://www.lovergang.com/). We sell hoodies, tote bags, and t-shirts with empowering messages that align with our brand mission.
Our goals for the future are to continue to create a safe space for athletes to have honest and real conversations about their struggles. We want to continue to grow the show and end all stigma towards mental health struggles in varsity athletics and also promote changes within the varsity context that will keep athlete wellness at the forefront of every program. Lastly, we hope that one day all varsity athletes will have access to free counseling services as we believe this is detrimental to one’s mental health success.