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A Case Study of Factors Influencing Performance in the Practice Environment

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

Athletes’ practice environment can influence their competitive performance. The influencing performance factors present in practice are understudied, and the aim of this study was to explore these factors. Using a case-study approach, the authors investigated a basketball practice environment to reveal influencing performance factors. Participants were 15 members of a U.K. Elite Academy Basketball League team based in a sixth-form college (equivalent to American high school age) that included 10 players, 2 coaches, 1 strength and conditioning coach, 1 academic teacher, and the head of sport (mean age 21.8 yr). A case-study approach was adopted to collect data from interviews, focus groups, and direct observations to provide a holistic assessment of the practice environment. Data were analyzed using inductive thematic analysis, which revealed 6 overarching themes: effort, status, individuality, preparation, team drive, and practice vision. Data analysis exposed several themes of influencing performance factors unreported in previous literature, suggesting that practice environments should be viewed as a stand-alone field of investigative enquiry. The results from this study provide a much-needed foray into the psychological influences of practice and give practitioners the opportunity to reflect on the results against their own practice environments.

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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.