"WE ARE ESSENTIALLY ALONE. There is no getting around this fact, even if we try to forget it a lot of the time." - Matt Haig in Reasons to Stay Alive
The greatest fears of the dying are pain, shortness of breath, and isolation. "We are essentially alone." Never let your family be alone.
As coaches, we have to defeat that aloneness. Our players must know, "I've got your back."
Having your back has its origins in ancient fighting. Armor fitted the warriors' front leaving their backs exposed. Fighting 'back to back' literally afforded life-sustaining protection.
What does it mean practically? Having your back implies more than fighting with each other but for each other. We need players who are for the team not just on the team. Being part of a close-knit team means a unity culture, not just teammates.
Having your back informs clarity and simplicity. "This is who we are; this is how we play."It implies an understanding of how teams fit together. Basketball challenges to blend individual excellence and personal desires for a greater whole. Teams have a variety of roles - primary scorer, rim protector, facilitator, defensive specialist. The "difference" among Pierce, Garnett, and Allen was greater than the similarity of Westbrook, George, and Anthony, all 'ball-centric' scorers. Molding a diverse team from similar ingredients should take longer.
Do we have our players' back? Each player requires recognition and role definition. Greet every player by name early in each practice. Add value to them and verbalize their value. Model caring and character.
That doesn't exclude what Cal rugby legend Jack Clark relates about "conditional love." "When you start looking at people who are really successful, who are part of successful organizations, the last thing they are is unconditional. We’re pretty highly conditional here."
Be consistent. Be authentic. Don't be a jerk. Make "I've got your back" credible and meaningful.