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Jo Trip

Image: Ben Lumley

Jo Trip understands the importance of education around women’s health in sport more than most.

Like many women, the Severn Stars player and head coach learned first-hand the impact hitting puberty can have on sports participation, but the extent of Trip’s awareness began earlier than you would expect.

At the age of 14 she was diagnosed with endometriosis, a condition where cells like the ones in the lining of the womb are found elsewhere in the body, causing symptoms such as chronic pain, fatigue, and depression, and later became one of the youngest people ever to receive surgery for it in her home country of New Zealand.

Trip was sporty from as far back as she can remember, excelling to a high level in volleyball, athletics, and netball, but the diagnosis changed the course of her teen years and her experience in sport.

 

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“I went from being a runner, really lean, winning everything in cross-country to having excruciating periods when I hit puberty,” she explained. “It’s debilitating, it really stops my life.

“The only reason I was allowed the surgery was because it had such a big impact on my life.

“I missed a lot of school through years 9 and 10 so I had to take the year off and study at home because I felt so far behind.

“There was a huge stage of my life where I could’ve gone either way [with sport] but when I was 15 one of the girls from my netball team at school had made the professional team as a 16-year-old and that was all the motivation I needed.

“I was like ‘Right I want this’ and by the time I was 19 I was in a professional team myself. A bit of a turnaround in three years!”

For Trip, who moved to England eight years ago, awareness around women’s health is the key to raising standards in women’s sport.

This drive served as the foundation for Stars’ engagement with England Netball’s NETBALLHer initiative, which provides educational resources and starting conversations around women’s health and sport.

 

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“You’re dealing with something you can’t control or don’t understand,” Trip said. “I don’t know if I still really understand the pain and the toll a period takes on my body.

“The days before, the cravings, the pain, the having to play while bleeding extremely heavily, the mindset around that – it being in the back of your mind.

“I don’t think you ever learn really how to deal with it, you just do.

“NetballHER is so broad and there are so many different areas in women’s health that can improve and are improving year to year. It’s increasing awareness and reaching women of all different ages, stages of life and backgrounds.”

After assuming her head coach role in the summer of 2022, the defender also established a partnership with the sports bra provider Maaree, aiming to optimise performance through well-fitted breast support.

“So many times in the changing room girls would complain or you would see them awkwardly fitting their bras that weren’t supportive enough,” Trip explained. “I struggled massively – I’ve got a longer back, bras just don’t fit well.

“Maaree fitted the girls and it was actually so surprising as to what sizes we were.

“Not only will the bras physically support the girls but it will also help them to perform, they won’t have to worry about that part.

“A lot of our players aren’t bigger chested, but a couple are and to have that in the back of their minds while playing is not fair.”

In a playing career spanning 14 years, Trip played for ANZ Championship sides Mainland Tactix and Waikato Bay of Plenty Magic and represented her country at Under-21 and New Zealand A team level, before moving to the UK where she represented Loughborough Lightning, Surrey Storm, and Saracens Mavericks.

Drawing on her years of experience on court, the former international has incorporated an openness around menstruation into her teaching in a bid to normalise and encourage conversations in elite environments.

 

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“A lot of our experience I share with the players,” she said. “They know I have a hell of a period.

“Sometimes I tell them you know, I’m on day two, I’m in a certain mood. I’m very direct with how I feel around that and respectful that we have girls that will drop a few more balls or fall over more while on their period.

“It’s about having an open flow of conversation and I do feel like I’ve learnt that from having endometriosis from a young age, feeling really comfortable talking about periods and following through as a coach.

“I trust the players and give them a lot of grace around who they are as people.”

WATCH: Inside the Circle: Severn Stars

Her approach has certainly paid off.

Severn Stars currently sit third in the Netball Super League table with five wins under their belt from the opening seven rounds.

While the squad admitted in the past they are ‘a bunch of weirdos’, Trip sees a determination in the team this season.

“I think this year it’s a bit more of a serious approach,” she said. “We absolutely have fun and have our laughs but there’s a real focus on what it takes to become a top four.

“They are all weird and wonderful but definitely a lot more focussed and driven.”

To keep up with the latest news, make sure to follow the @NetballSL on Twitter, Instagram and TikTok, Netball Super League on Facebook and LinkedIn, and subscribe to our newsletter.

Access information about Pelvic Health, Menopause, the Menstrual Cycle, Bras and Kit, Injury, Nutrition, Puberty, Pre and Post Natal information and much more all on the NETBALLHer website here. 

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