One of my favorite players to watch over the years just recently retired and is now working in the White Sox front office. Jim Thome may be one of the most respected players to have ever played the game, as well as one of the most talented. The first time you meet Big Jim, you may say there is no way he is for real, and there is no way a Major League Baseball player could be that nice and genuine. If you have met Jim and believe it is an act, you are wrong. As a baseball player, Jim was an incredibly fierce competitor, but the person you meet will impact how you should treat people: with class and respect. Congrats on a great career Jim, on and off the field.
The conversation with Jim that stands out the most to me was when I called him in the middle of a season when his team seemed to be caught up in a lot of drama. There were fights in the clubhouse and controversy in the media, and the talk was about everything but baseball. I asked Jim how he never seemed to be in the middle of it, despite his leadership position on the team.
He said, "Mike, I just stay in my lane." How simple, yet wise and profound. I know Jim was doing his best to help his team sort through the adversity, but when it came to emotional involvement, he didn't want to be in that "lane."
This is a trap many parents of young athletes fall into. Inevitably, coaches are going to make decisions parents won’t be happy about, just like I know many decisions I make don’t always make our fans happy. The problem arises when parents begin to jump into the lane of gossip. Maybe you don't like that word, "gossip," or you rationalize it by saying you are just talking behind the coach's back for the good of the team. But, the reality is that such talk in the stands tears teams apart and confuses the kids.
Parents are always emotionally involved when it comes to their kids, and rightfully so. But, if you are looking for the best possible experience for your son or daughter, take the advice from a future Hall of Famer and "stay in your lane." Your lane should be about supporting your child, but also about supporting the coach and the decisions he or she makes. The easiest way to destroy a team, whether in the Big Leagues or at the youth level, is to allow gossip in.