Read the Play kicking goals for youth mental health in sporting clubs through new evaluation.

Read the Play is proud to release the results of an extensive evaluation of its impact on local young people and sporting clubs.  Born and bred in Geelong, Read the Play (RTP) is an Australian mental health literacy (MHL) program designed for the junior levels of sporting clubs (i.e., the under 15’s age group). 

Read the Play has a strong commitment to continuing to improve our programs and enhance our impact on the mental health and wellbeing of young people.

Program Background:

RTP aims to deliver mental health and help-seeking information to young people by way of fun, interactive games at their sporting club, to ultimately increase young people’s knowledge and understanding of mental health and mental illness, facilitate an environment where mental health problems are not negatively judged, and thereby promote positive help-seeking behaviours. RTP is a one night intervention that takes approximately one hour to deliver.

RTP was established in 2006, and is mainly delivered to football and netball sporting youth aged 14-16 years. Over 30,000 sporting youth have received the program since its inception.

The  RTP program introduces, provides training to  and promotes the role of the Player Wellbeing Officer (PWO); a localised support person within each sporting club who encourages mental health and wellbeing, supports and guides young people to access help for themselves or teammates if needed, and provides an avenue for young people to seek support from someone who has a basic understanding of mental health and where to go for further assistance (i.e., referrals).


Evaluation Results:

This report presents the findings of an independent evaluation of the Read the Play (RTP) program undertaken at the Deakin University Centre for Drug use, Addictive and Anti-social Behaviour Research (CEDAAR; The evaluation was conducted from April 2018 to November 2019. 

The key aims of this evaluation were to:

• Measure the effects of the RTP program on key program outcomes, such as mental health literacy (MHL) and help-seeking intentions

• Examine the effect of the RTP program on help-seeking behaviours through the use and evaluation of localised support people (Player Wellbeing Officers; PWOs)

• Gain an understanding of any immediate (i.e., directly after RTP) and short-term (i.e., 2-8 weeks after RTP) impact of RTP

• Understand the goals, objectives, and perceived impact of RTP from the perspectives of those most involved and/or invested in the program (i.e., key stakeholders).

Key findings from this research project include: 

• Significant improvement in mental health literacy and help-seeking intentions of the younger participants, receiving the program for the first time. 

Help seeking behaviours were positive with 1 in 11 sporting youth seeking help from their coach or PWO for mental health problems after receiving the Read the Play intervention, in a 2-8 week period. 

Over 80% of youth who received the Read the Play program perceived the intervention to be helpful and informative in regard to their mental health understanding and knowledge of where to seek help.

• Participants reported that Read the Play has a positive impact on club culture. Increasing mental health awareness and acknowledging the support within the club has helped to build connections between players and the club community.

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