Have we mentioned before how inspired we are by the women who make up the #IDAWAVE?

We like to say they’re multidimensional athletes and humans, with stories and passions that weave in and out of the world of soccer and beyond.

Today we caught up with IDA Ambassador, entrepreneur, and IDA Spirit enthusiast, Demetra Mallios! 

Shop the IDA Spirit Women's Indoor Soccer Shoe and Lifestyle Shoe

10. Where are you from and how did you first get involved in soccer? What is your current relationship to the game?

I grew up in PA, but I'm also Greek! :) I first started playing when I was 4years old, and my dad was my coach. Being Greek, my family was also avid soccer fans, and I loved it too, and still do! I played on the most competitive travel teams, varsity, university club, and even semi-professionally in Germany. Now, I play for fun (in NYC leagues, co-ed leagues, etc) and dabble in coaching youth teams, as a way to give back and encourage confidence in others through sport.

9. How has soccer impacted your life outside of the sport?

It's a sport that taught me how to be a leader, a teammate, have discipline, understand the importance of hard-work, and exude confidence both on and off the field. In general, team sports and high-performing athletes have a great understanding of delayed gratification and the immense amount of discipline needed to get to that ultimate level and goal, which can take years to achieve. So, taking this mentality, growth mindset, and discipline into everything I do has provided me with the self-confidence and belief to know that I am capable of achieving challenging goals. With hard work, discipline, and patience, you can achieve a lot more than you may have thought possible. (Of course there are setbacks and some obstacles can cause you to adjust your goal or plans, but nonetheless, you're able to reach further heights and be proud of yourself for your milestones along the way!)

8. Has soccer had an impact on how you chose to pursue entrepreneurship? Or your "work life" in general?

To continue on my previous reflection, soccer has given me the skills needed to succeed as a leader and teammate when building a company and even as an employee in other businesses (and university too!). I was also always independent and loved to challenge myself, as well as create impactful ideas and products that could make a positive difference or others. For example, one of my first projects was supporting Soccer Without Boarders in high school by creating a yearly soccer tournament to raise funds and equipment for youth in Uganda. In undergrad and The University of Pittsburgh, I created a platform that connected university athletes (club, varsity, intramural) with physical therapist students, to help prevent injuries, create recovery plans, as well as provide students with the opportunity to earn their PT hours needed to graduate. Finally, at Columbia University, during my Master's combining both Engineering and an MBA, I created Puberry to positively impact the health and well-being of youth across the US and eventually the globe.

Soccer gave me the skills, confidence, discipline, and PROOF that I could and can continue to create and achieve my goals. I know that running a startup is challenging, facing many uncertainties, and will be filled with various ups and downs, as well as delayed gratification, but I am COMFORTABLE in this environment. In fact, this is where I thrive. I love the pressure, the excitement, the constant need to build and grow and improve myself and the business, and I learned all of this from playing sports since I was 4 years old. And although I contribute these attributes mainly from soccer, I also played varsity tennis, basketball, ran cross-country, and more. I was always working on learning new skills both in and out of the classroom and the work environment, and sports provided me with the foundation to know how to handle uncertainty and the ups-and-downs, without becoming flustered and quitting. It's part of the process, I am very resourceful, resilient, and believe in myself, because I've already proven that I can achieve challenging things since the age of 4. This is why I believe everyone should play sports! 😉 The skills and lessons learned are invaluable and have immense impact over a lifetime.

7. What inspired you to start Puberry? What is Puberry's mission?

Actually, soccer is very closely tied to why I built Puberry! Puberry is a gamified app that is revolutionizing the way youth learn about their health. You can think of us like a Duolingo for puberty, and more! Our holistic solution for youth, caregivers, and teachers, provides an engaging and reliable health education resource verified by medical professionals.And, we cover a variety of topics for anyone 8-18, including mental health, puberty, menstrual health, sex-ed, and more.

So, how did Puberry come about??

While working at adidas leading the global womens' strategy on the analytics side, we identified several insights, with one huge problem being that girls were dropping out of extracurricular activities and sport due to their period, which resulted in long-term consequences, like lower self-confidence, less of a chance of taking on leadership roles and "non-traditional" career paths ,and more. So, this prompted me to reflect on my own experience, and I recall getting my first period at 11 years old on NYE. I remember crying, feeling embarrassed, and totally unprepared. I also remember throughout middle school and high-school getting pulled off the field several times due to my period leaking through onto my white shorts, despite wearing both a pad and tampon. It was not only awkward, but also, I felt I could never talk to anyone about anything related to my personal health.

For many of us, talking about personal health, including menstrual, sexual ,or mental, was off limits at home and beyond, and my school only had 1 “sex ed” class throughout all my years of schooling. Unfortunately, the Lack of health education, causes stigma, and misinformation that can lead to long-term health consequences, and this is evident across the US.

Did you know that:

  • More than 1 in 5 youth have seriously contemplated suicide in the US ?
  • That the US has the HIGHEST STD, STI, and teen pregnancy rates of any developed country?
  • That the health curriculum is inconsistent and sometimes even non-existent?

With more than 80% of youth relying solely on TikTok or an American Girl Doll book, we saw a huge and obvious gap for improved health education.

Our mission is to eliminate shame, embarrassment , stigma, and misinformation surrounding puberty and health, enabling youth to feel prepared, supported, and confident, so that they can live healthier, happier lives.

6. Do you think menstruation and puberty is becoming less "taboo" to talk about? Or is it always going to be a naturally uncomfortable thing for parents and teenagers to navigate?

I think it is definitely becoming less taboo, but still has a long way to go. We are starting to talk about it more, which is great! But, these conversations are still not happening early enough. We see more discussions happening around 17-18+years old, but with Puberry, we are focusing on the root source of the problem, which means we need to positively impact perception around puberty, health, and menstruation at an earlier age, before the negative stigma forms.

We also totally understand that talking about these topics can be awkward and uncomfortable, but with a younger generation of parents, we are seeing more and more asking for additional resources to have these discussions with their kids, or a resource that they feel confident in that they can share with their kids to learn at their own pace. Luckily, with Puberry, parents have full transparency of content and access to discussion enablers to make talking about puberty and health a breeze!

And, if they choose not to have the conversation, they can feel confident knowing that their kids are learning in a fun and effective way through a reliable health resource that is verified by medical professionals.

We are also seeing more and more teachers reach out to us inquiring about support with these topics and wanting to elevate their curriculum to meet students' needs. Overall, I believe we are moving in the right direction, but that big changes rooted in years of stigma take time.

5. How does Puberry address mental health struggles among young women?

We include a lot of easily digestible content in the form of mini lessons and quizzes surrounding mental health, resources, and more. We also include an emotional and physical check-in via emojis with our emotions calendar, so that users can see how they are feeling throughout the week and month, and reflect or even use this as a tool to share with a trusted adult or doctor if support if needed. Furthermore, we connect the emotions calendar with learning about hormones, and share more about how and why certain feelings may arise, how to cope with them, and ways to ask for support if needed.

Plus, we have content on substance abuse, personal safety, and more, that can extent further into specifics of how one is feeling, or some of the challenges they may be going through, or even peer-pressure and situations they might encounter. With Puberry, we aim to provide a holistic approach to understand health and wellbeing for improved quality of life and decision making. We believe that with the right resources and knowledge, we can make better decisions that can positively impact our lives! :)

4. How do you feel about white shorts in women's sports?

Personally, I LOVE a clean white set. This was my FAVORITE jersey to wear (all white). I felt so confident and fierce in an all-white set. That being said, it does pose a potential problem or risk of having period blood easily visible on the field if you happen to leak through, like I experienced many times. But I don't think the problem is the white shorts, but rather the reaction and stigma we still have around menstruation. If nobody mocked women that bled through their pants during a very natural and healthy part of their cycle, then I don't think this "white shorts" topic would even be a conversation. If it didn't make people uncomfortable, nobody would care.

Unfortunately, years of stigma and shame causes us women to feel embarrassed if something like this occurs, which can definitely impact how we play, as your mental health is just as important as your physical health. And, feeling less confident due to your period can definitely play a role on your performance.

That being said, I feel there should be an option for a team or player to opt out of wearing white shorts if they don't feel comfortable. (I believe this is especially critical for sports where you can't wear spandex shorts or layers under your shorts to feel extra secured during your period). However, my goal with Puberry is to eliminate the stigma and shame from the source, by teaching kids at a young age, before they develop this stigma, so that we can eventually impact future generations and this "white shorts" topic won't even exist anymore! Of course, this takes a lot of time, but I do feel it's possible, and necessary. Why should we be ashamed and embarrassed to wear the color white, so much so, that we feel we need to adjust what we are wearing so as not to be mocked or stared at? A man is not concerned about wearing white shorts and neither should we. Periods are natural and a beautiful part of a women's life that plays a role in our ability to give birth. We have the power and incredible ability to create LIFE, and I refuse to be embarrassed by that.

3. What advice would you and Puberry give to parents, coaches, or team administrators of young athletes?

Encourage open dialogue and lead by example. It's important to talk openly about these topics so that your kid(s) and team feel safe and comfortable coming to you when they have questions or concerns. This open dialogue can prevent youth from dropping out of sports and activities, and change that statistic that was mentioned in the beginning as being a key insight from the adidas analytics team.

I would suggest sharing your own experiences with them to "break the ice" and demonstrate your compassion and understanding during this critical growth and development timeframe in their life. Also, providing the vocabulary and space to have these discussions can help! For instance, provide an anonymous questions survey or box to your team, or an "open-discussion" time where they can share any thoughts, questions or concerns with you.

And of course, use Puberry! :) We make learning about puberty and health topics fun for everyone!

2. What advice would you give to a younger you? Either on or off the pitch.

I'd tell myself to not take everything so seriously and focus on the bigger picture and goals I set for myself. Being a high-achiever, I had a tendency to put too much pressure on minute things that didn't really matter as much long-term, but that caused me a disproportionate amount of stress in the short-term. For example, receiving mediocre grade on one book report wasn't really all that critical. I've since gotten much better at prioritizing things that actually matter and will "move the needle". This has also helped me a lot in my startup, as learning to prioritize effectively and efficiently is key to succeeding with minimal resources.

1. What inspired you to be part of IDA? Why is women's specific gear important to you? What are your go-to IDAs to wear?

I LOVE the company's mission, values, and team!! I met the IDA team at their Equal Playing Field event while setting the world record for the longest soccer match ever recorded during the women's World Cup in France. At the time, I was working with adidas and volunteering at the event, and had recently been becoming increasingly annoyed with the limited cleat options for women. The ones I wanted were always only in the men's size range and would cause blisters. This is when I met IDA, and was immediately ecstatic! It's something I always wanted - women's soccer cleats that actually fit, look good, and are high-quality! I tended to always feel a bit disrespected when I'd go shop for soccer cleats and was always directed to the kids' section to purchase the lesser quality version because my size range did not exist in the men's cleat, and there was no such thing as a women's cleat. It felt like nobody would take a female player seriously... Until IDA! This is why I love what IDA is doing, as they are changing the landscape for all female soccer players and beyond! Having the right gear for you not only boosts your confidence, but also makes you feel like you actually belong and are respected for your athletic abilities and skills too. It's more than just a shoe, it's a brand that is creating confidence and a place of belonging for all female athletes.

My favorite pair are the IDA Futsal shoes so far! But, I love the turf ones too! I can't wait to see all the amazing products to come, and I'm excited to keep on supporting! ❤️

Be sure to check out Puberry at puberry.org, sign up for free, or share with someone you know who might find it useful!