When we look closely at the anatomy of great teams we typically see top-notch owners, coaches, superstars and most importantly, we see humble and hardworking role players. The role players are rarely in the news, they rarely get the big contracts and they seldom get credit or blame for the result of the games. Yet we all intuitively know their importance to the team. I really enjoy looking for and rooting for the role players. Perhaps my attraction to the role player is simply due to the fact that their sole purpose on the team is to set others up for success, and that the team’s success is more important than the attention they get. To me, this is admirable.

One of the greatest role players on your team is your thoracic spine (T-spine). This area of the body rarely gets the credit or the blame it deserves. With the ribs hooked to it, this cage-like structure provides stability for the vital organs, yet is gifted with significant mobility to help us move and do the things we love to do. It is basically there to set the other body parts up for success. With its duel-threat attributes, it looks much more like a superstar than a role player. Yet we rarely hear about it, and the T-spine likes it that way. It wants to be encouraged, but more importantly it wants to encourage others. Follow me for a second on this.

Often in sports we watch coaches, parents and even an entire community give way too much attention to the superstars. Even if it is unintentional, it occurs a lot more than we all like to admit. When this happens, the role players eventually become discouraged, under appreciated and eventually they just stop doing their job well and often quit. On our own team (our bodies) our sitting biased culture limits the encouragement of healthy movement of the thoracic spine on a daily basis. Over time this role player becomes more and more discouraged. It eventually stops showing up, doing its job and eventually we no longer have team chemistry; in fact we have dysfunction.

In the clinic it is not uncommon to find a hunkered down and discouraged T-spine for neck, shoulder and low back pain — we even find it often contributing to knee pain and shin splints in runners. If this is the case, we immediately start focusing on encouraging the T-spine and soon we see symptoms reduce and successful movement elsewhere in the body. When we encourage the T-spine, the team starts to perform better, and we start winning the game with healthy pain-free movement. When this happens the T-spine never wants the applause or the attention, and why would it? After all, its purpose is to set others up for success. Imagine if the entire body behaved like that. Imagine what could be if each player individually does its job for the benefit of the team, all while looking for opportunities to set others up for success.

Deep down I believe we all aspire to be like the T-spine. We are all gifted with the stability to protect our own vitality, yet we are all blessed with an amazing mobility to reach out and help our family, friends and community members achieve success in a variety of ways. Imagine what kind of world we would live in if we all became more like the T-spine, became better role players. All it takes is a little encouragement.

My encouragement to you this week is to check out Free2Play Academy and learn some healthy movements to encourage your team; especially your role players. Take a look around, and eventually you’ll want to make your way to the Matrix Library – some of my favorites for the T-spine are in the Reach tab and titled “Alternating Hands Shoulder to Overhead Reach.”

If you are watching the Super Bowl this weekend, look for role players that make a difference in the game. I would also encourage you to be on the look out for the role players in your life and thank them, encourage them and more importantly aspire to be more like them.