OBJECTIVES This study examined the development of Chinese pre-service physical education teachers’ technical skill, tactical understanding, game performance (common content knowledge - CCK), and specialized content knowledge (SCK) during a badminton course incorporating Play Practice instruction. METHODS Participants were 36 pre-service teachers (31 males, 5 females: age 21 ± 1.0) majoring in physical education at a university in central China. The students completed a 24 lesson course after a 16 weeks semester. A typical lesson (90 minutes) included a 10-minute warm-up, followed by instruction in two or three technical skills or tactics for 50-55 minutes. The final 25-minutes included the Play Practice aspect of the lesson - a specific game-based challenge to reinforce a technical or tactical aspect of badminton play. The challenge included the three typical pedagogies of Play Practice: focusing, shaping, and enhancing. The French clear test, tactical understanding in badminton, Game Performance Assessment Instrument (GPAI), and student-generated content maps were used to respectively monitor changes in technical skills, tactical understanding, game performance, and specialized content knowledge before and after the course. Parametric statistics were used to compare student outcomes. RESULTS Statistically significant differences were found on all measures from pre- to post-test, with all showing large effect sizes. In particular, over 75% of students achieved the benchmark depth of SCK following the course. CONCLUSIONS The inclusion of Play Practice within a sport instruction course can contribute to various elements that are needed to promote the CCK and SCK of pre-service physical education students.