“We are their last chance”: A case study of a college basketball environment in an American underserved community

Robert T. Book*, Kristoffer Henriksen, Natalia Stambulova, Ole Winthereik Mathorne


Publikation: Bidrag til tidsskriftTidsskriftartikelForskningpeer review


In this case study we used the holistic ecological approach (HEA) to examine an underserved athletic talent development environment (UATDE) in the United States to: (1) holistically describe a successful UATDE—in this case a community college basketball program known as Best Community College, and (2) explore factors contributing to the success of developing athletes that repeatedly earn athletic scholarships. Data were collected via in-situ observations, document analysis, and interviews (both formal and informal) with coaches, players, and other key stakeholders. The findings were summarized in two empirical models: (1) the UATDE empirical model of Best Community College, and (2) the underserved environment success factors (UESF) empirical model of Best Community College. The operation of the UATDE was significantly influenced by the underserved community in which it was embedded, translating to a lack of financial and human resources, while the team’s roster was occupied by athletically talented, but psychosocially vulnerable players. These challenges were overcome, in part, by a dedicated support team as well as the cultural paradigm established by the head coach as a cultural leader. Conclusively, this case study constitutes an important supplementation to the evolving body of literature utilizing the HEA, highlighting how an environmental context can shift the focus of athletic talent development when we consider the concept of a UATDE. Lay summary: This case study explored a successful community college basketball program located within an underserved American community. While the investigation concludes that socioeconomic challenges in the surrounding community created significant barriers to success, the head coach and support team were able to help players succeed in sport and life.IMPLICATIONS FOR PRACTICE Those working in community colleges must be made aware of issues stemming from where the environment is located and also related to the backgrounds of the prospective athletes. Community college sports programs are an important steppingstone to life and sport success for the athletes they serve but a lack of human and financial resources are a large barrier to success that can be counteracted by strong cultural leaders within the sport program. UATDEs must be considered a unique context and practitioners should let this context inform their practice, for example, by supporting the staff as much as the athletes, supporting the head coach in developing a functional cultural paradigm, and supporting the athletes’ broader psychosocial development and not only their performance.

TidsskriftJournal of Applied Sport Psychology
Udgave nummer1
Sider (fra-til)1-23
StatusUdgivet - 2024


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