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Interview with Pippy Donaldson

It’s not every day you hear a student express their desire for a special place at the gym that’s designated for study.

But for Psychology student Pippy Donaldson, having a place to study after a gruelling workout session at the gym is her ideal of a one-stop-shop for dedicated athletes like herself while studying at The University of New England.

Pippy has a large sporting portfolio and has excelled in numerous sports such as gymnastics, swimming, rowing, diving, and rugby. However, she is currently a student with the UNE Sports Academy for her exceptional performance in water polo – a fiercely competitive sport held in a swimming pool and consists of players trying to advance a ball into a goal. Water polo is best described as a combination of swimming, soccer, basketball, and even wrestling, therefore Pippy’s training involves targeting a whole range of skills and abilities. The Sports Academy offers gym programs that are specifically designed for each student’s athletic needs. When I asked Pippy what are the benefits of being part of the academy, she said how the individual training sessions “help to develop (her) skills to become a better athlete” and that the one thing missing is having a study spot at Sport UNE for a post-gym study session… “that way I can do my gym session, do some work and then go home”

If you didn’t think she has enough going on, watch this space!

Pippy has just added rugby 7’s to her repertoire as a new addition to Robb College’s Women’s 7s team. Her current goal is to develop her tackling and sprinting, and of course, be free from injury. I’m amazed at how she finds the time to include another sport to her schedule! When she gets a moment from her study and sporting demands she enjoys watercolor painting as a way of relaxation. Also included in her downtime is singing and playing the guitar or piano. Most importantly, Pippy enjoys hanging with her friends on weekends and is finding college life really fun!

Like many student sports stars, she really has her hands full, and has just begun her studies in a Bachelor of Psychology with Honours. The four-year degree may be a challenge in maintaining “crazy marks” throughout to obtain the honours, yet her passion to one day provide people in remote and rural areas with a practicing psychologist proves she has the right ambitions and motivations to successfully get her the qualifications she wants. Pippy promotes a kind, bubbly attitude with an eagerness to help others, and I couldn’t help but feel inspired by her dream job that targets a realistic and current issue that is affecting thousands of Australians every day. Her experiences as a governess and a jillaroo in Western Australia and the Northern Territory during her gap year in 2017, taught her the challenges of working with different types of people, in addition to learning how to stand up for yourself. These are qualities that are important in the field of practice she wishes to one day work in. Pippy’s ambitions to start a mobile practice started with her wanting to not only provide Australian’s in remote areas with the same mental health services as those in cities but to also help break down the stigma that surrounds the issues of mental health in regional Australia. Whether it be by car or plane, she hopes to reach areas around remote Queensland, Northern Territory, and New South Wales.

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In the light of AFL player, Taylor Harris’s public experience with inappropriate comments towards her athletic ability on an incredible photo of her that Channel 7 posted, my conversation with Pippy touched on her experiences as a female gymnast, swimmer, diver and rower and the pressure in needing to have a thin physique for competitions. One issue that many young females find prominent (sports aside) is the judgment on their appearance, but Pippy highlighted how the judgement towards sporting women can be regarded as sexist with the regulations in clothing. Female gymnasts have to wear tight and most often, revealing clothing, compared to male gymnasts who can wear pants and have their legs covered. Females are expected to have a “skinny” sporting figure, “people would always look at me and go, wow she has really big legs”, even though her strong, toned legs (and totally not ‘big’) are a result from training and her natural build. Pippy mentioned how females with large muscle mass should be celebrated, “people need to realise that a diver, a gymnast, a rower, are not all skinny”. But it’s not just on the competition floor where she has experienced judgements on her appearance, as her experiences in the gym can be a common reality for many other girls who enjoy strength training. “Sometimes you get looked at funny in the gym”, commenting on a particular time she when was the only female in the weights room and felt she was judged by the other lifters around her… “I’m lifting eighty kilos on the leg press and I can see their confused expressions (asking) why is she bulking? What are you doing here?”.

Pippy passionately believes that people should “be proud of their sporting body” and promoting all sorts of bodies needs to begin within the media coverage of sporting events.

It is hard enough to be completely content with your own body when considering the unrealistic models we see on social media every day, and I couldn’t imagine the pressures women in competitive sports, like Pippy, feel when they are not only having to focus on their ability but their appearance as well.

 Pippy is not only an incredibly insightful young lady, but also highly engaging and entertaining. The topics we covered shows enlightenment that goes beyond her years and I cannot wait to see her take on her degree with the same amount of enthusiasm I saw when she spoke about the wellbeing of Australians and female’s sports stars. #ProudToBeUNE


To follow Pippy on her journey through her degree and sporting triumphs follow her on

Instagram: pippydonaldson
Facebook: Pippy Donaldson

And a big shout out goes to the team at SportUNE and UNE Sports Academy for helping Pippy achieve her goals at university!