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C'mon, Dad.... Focus!

January 12, 2003

Sadly, most everyone has witnessed a parent at some youth sporting event berating an official, a coach or even his or her own child. Such behavior by alleged adults seems more common in recent years, even erupting into violence at times. But what to do other than scold and berate? Now, a major Canadian sports organization has stopped wincing and turning away, as most of us do, and launched a creative public-service ad campaign using children to teach adults some basic manners. American youth organizations, parents and TV should take a lesson from it too.

The campaign's sharper points are based on a slyly humorous but all too relevant role reversal of parents and children. In one spot a father lines up his putt near adult friends. From nearby comes the insistent voice of his son: "Come on, Dad.... Focus! ... Widen your stance a little. Don't slouch and don't screw up.... This is the big leagues." The father looks to his friends for help. "What are you doing?" says the boy. "Keep your eye on the ball." The flustered father misses the putt. And the child yells, "That was pathetic!"

"Sorry," says the dad. "Yah," replies his son. "Well, sorry doesn't cut it."

In a second ad, one woman's grocery cart brushes another. "Mom, you're such a wimp," says a little girl. "What's wrong with you? Stand up for yourself. Go over there and give her a good smack." The point, of course, is the rude example many parents provide their offspring.

The national campaign was designed by the Canadian Hockey Assn. and created by Palmer Jarvis, a Vancouver ad agency whose staffers are hockey parents themselves. It's being played across Canada on TV, radio, stadium Jumbotrons and in newspapers. One print ad depicts a boy with a stopwatch timing his father in the bathroom. Another shows a child with pointer and charts lecturing on babies to parents in bed. The message of the videos (viewable at www.latimes.com/parents) is: "What if kids pressured us the way we pressure them? Relax, it's just a game." And it's applicable to any parents, any game, any nation.

A police officer writes a ticket for a man in his car. From the back seat his son says, "You got to be kidding. That call stinks.... You're not just going to sit there and take this, are you? Stand up to this moron."

There may be reasons for the worsening parental behavior -- a general social coarsening, financial pressures to seek athletic scholarships, emotional needs to rewrite a distant nonathletic childhood. But there really are no excuses, especially for role models. So three cheers for those ad writers and the Canadian Hockey Assn. for their tellingly effective, nonconfrontational approach. All parents should look at these videos. Laugh. Then look inside themselves. And take a vow.

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