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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.