Sense of community as a source of motivation

Cultivating a winning mindset

— By Debbie King

Mindset matters every day. But on game day, it's pivotal.

So how do leaders help players focus when the pressure's on? That's what we asked Faith McNab, assistant coach of the Saskatchewan under-19 women's volleyball team, at the 2017 North American Indigenous Games (NAIG) in Toronto.

Strength in Numbers

Visualization, breathing, and self-talk are common practices exercised by athletes. But as McNab attests, focus is sometimes found in something outside of, or greater than, oneself. For McNab and her team of spirited young women at NAIG 2017, that something was a formidable sense of community.

For the 10 players representing their province and various First Nations, pride and community were huge. And NAIG itself is a celebration of cultural heritage, sport excellence, and a source of pride for Indigenous people across the country.

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When faced with challenging moments on the court, McNab reminded the young athletes of "who they are and who's watching."

Whether in the stands, online, or back home in Saskatchewan, there were friends, family and communities watching and rooting for their success.

There, on the court, they were more than setters and power hitters; they were active representatives of their sport and culture.

Gratitude for opportunity

That strong sense of community is something McNab experienced as a former player in the Games, and was able to cultivate as a coach. (No easy feat when coaching a team who met only 10 days earlier!)

Throughout the tournament, the women lived, dined, and toured Toronto together, building friendships and memories along the way.


Along with community, McNab underscored presence and gratitude. Participating in the triennial tournament is an incredible opportunity for youth athletes. While a competitive team intent on medaling, the Saskatchewan players were reminded to be present and grateful for the opportunity that 170 other young women vied for.

Together, their efforts paid off. The team achieved their goal with a silver medal win after an extremely close final versus Alberta.

Harnessing the power of community in sport and fitness

Athlete or not, a strong sense of community can be motivating for many of us. If you've ever persevered at school or work, driven by the common goal and camaraderie of a team, then you've experienced this winning mindset already.

How can this same sense of community impact your sport and fitness success? Ask yourself these four questions to find out.

  1. Who among your friends, family, or colleagues are watching and rooting for you?
  2. When you compete on the road, track, field or water, who among your respective age group, culture or community might be encouraged by your representation and performance?
  3. When faced with difficulties in training, what can you be grateful for?
  4. How can you find or foster a greater sense of community in your fitness life? (I personally love joining training clubs, as well as fitness studios that offer small group training and coordinate social or fundraising events for members).

Explore the answers to these questions and you may find yourself more focused and motivated next time your performance is on the line.

Debbie King is a masters athlete, freelance writer and FANFIT veteran. When she's not in the gym, on the track, or immersed in word play, she can be found enjoying Toronto life with her husband and daughter.