Head down to any sports field on a Saturday morning and you’re more than likely to encounter some negative sideline behaviour, not only from supporters but also from coaches and players themselves. 
It’s an issue that has plagued sport for many years and is highlighted through insights from school and player voice surveys which shows the real impact on those who play, referee and manage sport. 

Sport Waikato’s Sport Development Manager Amigene Metcalfe said the rangatahi (teenagers) in our communities tell us that the adults in their lives significantly influence their experiences in physical activity and sport. 

“We hope that, through the Positive Vibes Only campaign, we can raise awareness of how adults can help make sport a more enjoyable experience for everyone,” said Amigene.

A highly successful Positive Vibes Only campaign was originally piloted at the Upper North Island Secondary School (UNISS) Netball tournament held at Hamilton City Netball Centre in August 2023. This success has seen the Waikato Sport Collective – a collection of regional sporting organisations from across the region - adopt the campaign across its codes. We know that our families will often participate across a number of different codes, so working together to deliver consistent sporting experiences is a real benefit of the Collective collaborating on a project like this.

Northern Districts Cricket Association, WaiBOP Football Federation, Waikato Rugby, Waikato Touch Association, Hamilton City Netball Centre, Netball Waikato Bay of Plenty, Waikato Hockey Association and the Waikato Volleyball Association will roll out the campaign across their competitions and tournaments in a partnered effort to address the negativity surrounding sport in the region. 

The campaign was born out of a conversation between Hamilton City Netball Centre Manager Clare Frankhouser and Sport Waikato to discuss the UNISS tournament and associated negativity experienced not only in past tournaments but at Saturday morning netball games.

Clare revealed that the netball centre had got to the stage that they had to have security at their Saturday morning games. 

“Bringing the Positive Vibes Only campaign to the tournament gave us an opportunity to showcase how you can still have positive experiences and remain highly competitive. Working with Sport Waikato to develop the campaign and really drill down to the ‘why’ was important – why do our supporters become negative, do they know they’re being negative or affecting the players, and how can we help them to understand the implications of their actions,” said Clare.

Prior to the tournament, the campaign launched on social media with a video featuring players and officials talking about what they’ve heard on the sidelines, how it made them feel and what they’d prefer people to say or do. From the video, the comments were used to create the bold signage at the event, including “Keep your opinions to yourself”, “Remember, umpires are doing their best”, “Support and encourage both teams”and “Let them enjoy the game”.

With a focus on positivity and helping people to change their language and behaviour rather than highlighting the negativity, the change happened right at the entry with large gate signage and “I support Positive Vibes Only” stickers handed out to every player, coach and spectator. Bold signage with messages from the players were displayed around the venue, officials wore pink uniforms, and staff caught people being positive with prizes of pinky bars.  Feedback was captured with ‘How was the vibe today?’ feedback jars to gauge the vibe of each day, alongside survey responses after the event. 

More than 70 percent of survey respondents noted the campaign had a big impact on the tournament, with many commenting that the whole ‘vibe’ was different. 

Comments received in the survey included:

“A noticeable difference in what was seen as acceptable or tolerated sideline comments towards umpires and players!!!”

“I was gifted a “pinky bar” for my encouraging behaviour.  The whole vibe of kind behaviour made it such a great tournament.”

“It was a constant reminder for myself, the coach, and team to be positive on and off the court.  Was a fantastic idea and should be taken up by more codes.”

On the back of the success of the campaign, a number of the Waikato Sport Collective codes have agreed to implement Positive Vibes Only region-wide, starting with the winter codes, and volleyball, cricket and touch to follow in summer. 

The Positive Vibes Only campaign officially launches on 4th April 2024 and alongside social media messaging, sporting codes will be working with their communities to highlight what a positive sporting experience looks like and how important adults are in influencing that experience.
View the Positive Vibes Only campaign video at UNISS 2023



Lisa Bishop | Sport Waikato Communications & Marketing Lead
lisab@sportwaikato.org.nz | 0212409171
Amigene Metcalfe | Sport Waikato Sport Development Manager
amigenem@sportwaikato.org.nz | 021350410


‘Positive Vibes Only’ sideline behaviour campaign launches in the Waikato region

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