Play Well trial to encourage positive parents on sporting sidelines

11 May 2021

A CQUniversity researcher is driving a unique program to help parents be positive on the sidelines of their kids' sport.

The Australian-first initiative sees CQUni and The University of Queensland partner with the National Rugby League and Queensland Rugby League' in a proactive step to ensure children better enjoy and value their participation in the sport.

Developed by researchers from CQUni and UQ's School of Human Movement and Nutrition Sciences and Parenting and Family Support Centre' the Play Well Triple P program is seeking parents of junior rugby players across south-east Queensland to be part of the trial.

Program co-developer and CQUniversity Psychology Head of Course Dr Cassy Dittman says the principles of staying positive on sporting sidelines are relevant to all parents.

"We know there's a huge physical and social benefit for getting kids playing sport' but parents can also have a huge influence on how much they enjoy their experience and develop a passion for playing'" Dr Dittman explained.

"It's not just about shouting encouragement during the game – it's about showing you value the sporting community' and all the people who make it happen."

A mum to three kids in primary school and pre-school' Bundaberg-based Dr Dittman grew up playing netball in Moranbah' and said sport in regional communities was particularly vital.

"Kids also need help to understand they're getting benefits from playing whether they're part of a winning team or a losing one."

"Sport strengthens the body' improving balance and co-ordination' and kids who play sport are more likely to be physically active adults … a life-long habit leading to better health and wellbeing."

Director of UQ's Parenting and Family Support Centre and program co-developer Professor Matt Sanders said enrolling children in junior sport is a great investment in their physical and personal development' but it's only the first step.

"Together in this program' we'll look at ways of becoming a more positive sporting parent' how to avoid common traps' and strategies to strengthen positive behaviour'" Professor Sanders said.

Parents of children (aged up to 12 years) who are enrolled in junior rugby league this season can sign up for the Play Well Triple P program at

Dr Dittman says the program offers parents practical ways to think about:

  • The best time to debrief on a game and its outcome – not straight after the game when the child is probably exhausted' hungry and emotional'
  • How you show respect and appreciation for your child's teammates' coaches' referees and opposition players' and find things to compliment for participants other than your own child'
  • How you watch professional sport' and how to model positive reactions to passages of play' referee decisions and game outcomes.

The program takes just 30 minutes to complete' and participants will go into the draw to win a family pass to Game II of this year's State of Origin series at Suncorp Stadium.

Following the trial program' Dr Dittman and the research team will assess how the program impacted sports-related and general parenting skills' as well as parents' sports-related beliefs and expectations.

Queensland Maroons great and dad Sam Thaiday is throwing his support behind the initiative' and warned that parents could be unwittingly discouraging kids from playing.

"While we all want our kids to have a great time playing junior sport' there are some things we do' as parents' that aren't helping them get the most out of the game… like losing our temper' discouraging our kids or having unrealistic expectations of them."

These negative behaviours can often be the catalyst for children dropping out of their sport.