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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.