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Justine Branco (She/Her); Athletic Trainer. Mississauga, Ontario
Describe your pathway within field hockey. How did you get to where you are today?
I started playing when I was 10, and have been in the sport for 20 years now- (house league, club athlete, provincial athlete Ontario U16/U19/Senior women, University of Toronto (5 years) athletic therapist with JWNT, indoor national teams, Field Hockey Ontario head AT, Canadian Indoor Classic organizing committee, starting to do some coaching/training with A&C Field Hockey Academy).
The experiences I had as an athlete taught me so much, not just about sport, but also about life in general. I’ve had some great coaches over the years, who I now work with in a support staff roll. I had stepped back from field hockey after finishing my playing career at UofT, and was going to focus on AT school. I figured, I had a good run, maybe I would play in a few tournaments here and there….until someone asked me if I wanted to get some placement hours covering a tournament as an AT student. And the rest is history.
I did a lot of field coverage for various teams and events, and each opportunity built towards the next opportunity. athletic therapy gives me a chance to give back to the sport that has given me so much; as an AT student, I would cover practices and tournaments, and that has grown into multiple opportunities with FHC and helped me create a career and business doing what I love, helping the community that has become like a family to me (On-the-Go Athletic Therapy). I never got the chance to represent Canada as an athlete (I wasn’t anywhere close!), but it is an honour to represent Canada on the sidelines as a therapist.
What was the most memorable moment from JPAC?
Besides the moment we qualified for the JWC by winning our semi-final, I think it would be the anthems during the Chile game, with the Chilean crowd singing, drumming, cheering, and all of their energy. After the craziness of COVID and sports being “canceled” for almost 18 months, being able to experience the energy of a crowd in person (rather than on a TV screen) was amazing and a bit emotional. And being able to sing O’Canada wearing the maple leaf is always a privilege, honour, and emotional experience.
What are your main takeaways from JPAC?
Even on days when you may not believe in yourself or are having a rough day, so many others believe in you, look up to you, and think you are an amazing human being.
Control the controllable, and try not to stress too much about the things we can’t control
Be willing to adapt to change; things may not always go according to plan
Teamwork really does make the dream work –> athletes, staff (both on the ground & back home/over the months leading up to JPAC, big or small contributions), reserves, etc
Prepare, Prepare, Prepare
What are you most looking forward to in the next year or so?
Returning back to sports & fieldwork, after being shut down for so long due to COVID restrictions
Working on growing On-the-Go Athletic Therapy, continuing to work with the field hockey community, and joining a varsity college sport environment.
What advice can you give to your younger self / other girls wanting to follow in your footsteps?
Shadow/volunteer/get experience/exposure in the career field you are interested –> see if it is something you can see yourself doing, both the “glamourous” parts and the “not-so-glamourous” aspects (these experiences are also great networking opportunities!)
Connect with mentors –> I still keep in touch with a lot of my mentors (and still ask them things); I wouldn’t be the therapist or the person I am today if it weren’t for them
Everything happens for a reason (even though in the moment, it may be hard to see that) Sometimes, you have to step outside your comfort zone to spread your wings
“no one said it would be easy, they just promised it would be worth it” This is so true about sport and being an AT, don’t be afraid to ask for help.