Research Impact


Getting 'Ahead of the Game'

Adolescent male mental health addressed by delivering programs through organised sporting clubs

Partnering with a range of sporting associations and organisations, ‘Ahead of the Game’ is a sports-based mental health program for adolescent males.

With more than two-thirds of all adolescent males participating in organised sports each year, the collaboration aims to educate and assist recognition and response when players need support.

Led by Dr Stewart Vella from the UOW Faculty of Social Sciences, the proposal to address adolescent male mental health by delivering programs through organised sports was funded by the Movember Foundation in late 2014 to the tune of $2 million.

A grassroots approach to mental health education and intervention for one of the most vulnerable groups for depression and suicide, Ahead of the Game has been rolled out to more than 500 adolescents through local community sporting clubs in the Illawarra, the Illawarra Academy of Sport, and Illawarra Sports High School.

Resources developed as part of Ahead of the Game include resources for adolescent males, such as Help Out a Mate, a mental health literacy workshop, and Your Path to Success in Sport, a sports-based resilience workshop and app. As well, there are workshops and resources that address the needs of parents, coaches and clubs.

The research team are continuing to validate the effectiveness of the program, with a set of randomised controlled trials already demonstrating increasing mental health literacy in target groups.

“Through this project, we have developed an international network of collaborations focussing on mental health in youth sport, which includes researchers from the United States, Canada, the UK, Ireland, New Zealand and Australia,” Dr Vella said.

“It’s the goal of the research team to reach every single adolescent male sport participant in Australia. All research partners have committed to translating the program into policy and practice,” Dr Vella said.

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Partner organisations

Australian Sports Commission
Football Federation Australia
Cricket Australia
Swimming Australia
Tennis Australia
Basketball Australia
Australian Drug Foundation
Black Dog Institute

UOW participants

Dr Stewart Vella, Dr Christian Swann, Prof. Simon Eckermann, Prof. Tony Okely, Prof. Frank Deane