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Implementing and Evaluating the Practice Environment Model Using Action Research

Steve M. Smith, Hazel Brown, and Stewart T. Cotterill

The psychological factors that influence performance in the practice environment, where competitive athletes engage in deliberate practice, have recently been given specific research attention. The current study employed an action research approach to implement the practice environment model as an education strategy to increase the practice performance of players in a U.K. basketball academy team over a 20-week period. The aim of the study was to evaluate the effect of the education strategy on practice performance. The team competed nationally and consisted of the head coach, the assistant coach, and 18 male players aged 16–19 years. Data were collected through focus groups, joint semistructured interviews, field observations, and a practice environment model web-based questionnaire. Qualitative data were analysed using thematic narrative analysis and the Friedman test analysed quantitative data. Quantitative results suggested that the education strategy decreased perceptions of stress and increased effort, preparation activities, and teammate support. Qualitative results provided an in-depth narrative of the environmental changes undertaken to improve practice performance. Discussion focuses on the key strategies of effort and control, performance expectations, team drive, positive communication, and preparation. This study is the first to apply the practice environment model to a real-world sporting domain.

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An Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis of Coach Perceptions in the Practice Environment

Steve M. Smith, Stewart T. Cotterill, and Hazel Brown

The psychological environment where sporting activity is undertaken has been suggested to influence performance. The coach orchestrates practice activities and their perception of the psychological environment has been regularly evaluated in competition research but not in practice. The aim of this study was to explore coach perceptions of the psychological influencing factors present in the practice environment. Participants were six U.K. academy basketball coaches (mean age = 35 years). Data were collected through semi-structured interviews and analyzed using interpretative phenomenological analysis. Five superordinate themes were constructed from data analysis, which were player characteristics, team-first orientation, current performance perceptions, coach characteristics, and coaching structure. Results suggest that the coach has a unique insight into the psychological influencing factors of the practice environment. Combined with the practice environment framework offered by Smith, Cotterill, and Brown, a model is offered to aid practitioners in understanding the interrelatedness of psychological influencing factors in the practice environment.