Sport psychology and performance meta-analyses: A systematic review of the literature

PLoS One. 2022 Feb 16;17(2):e0263408. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0263408. eCollection 2022.


Sport psychology as an academic pursuit is nearly two centuries old. An enduring goal since inception has been to understand how psychological techniques can improve athletic performance. Although much evidence exists in the form of meta-analytic reviews related to sport psychology and performance, a systematic review of these meta-analyses is absent from the literature. We aimed to synthesize the extant literature to gain insights into the overall impact of sport psychology on athletic performance. Guided by the PRISMA statement for systematic reviews, we reviewed relevant articles identified via the EBSCOhost interface. Thirty meta-analyses published between 1983 and 2021 met the inclusion criteria, covering 16 distinct sport psychology constructs. Overall, sport psychology interventions/variables hypothesized to enhance performance (e.g., cohesion, confidence, mindfulness) were shown to have a moderate beneficial effect (d = 0.51), whereas variables hypothesized to be detrimental to performance (e.g., cognitive anxiety, depression, ego climate) had a small negative effect (d = -0.21). The quality rating of meta-analyses did not significantly moderate the magnitude of observed effects, nor did the research design (i.e., intervention vs. correlation) of the primary studies included in the meta-analyses. Our review strengthens the evidence base for sport psychology techniques and may be of great practical value to practitioners. We provide recommendations for future research in the area.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Anxiety / prevention & control*
  • Anxiety / psychology
  • Athletic Performance / physiology*
  • Athletic Performance / psychology*
  • Humans
  • Mindfulness*
  • Psychology, Sports / methods*

Grants and funding

The author(s) received no specific funding for this work.