If-Then Planning in Sports: A Scoping Review

Maik Bieleke, Wanja Wolff, Chris Englert, Peter M. Gollwitzer

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


If-then planning (implementation intentions) describes a self-regulatory strategy that helps people to attain their goals across a variety of domains, such as achieving physical activity goals. Based on such beneficial effects, if-then plans are anecdotally discussed as a strategy to enhance sports-related performance as well. However, this discussion currently lacks an empirical basis. We therefore conducted a scoping review to identify experimental research on the effects of if-then planning on sports-related performance, potential moderators of these effects, the methodological approaches used, and the suitability of the available evidence for assessing the effectiveness of if-then planning in sports. Based on a search of four online databases, we identified a set of 11 studies that investigated if-then planning in experimental research withsports-related performance as an outcome measure. Six of these studies focused on if-then planning in endurance tasks, whereas the remaining studies investigated sports performance in domains that do not revolve primarily around endurance (e. g., tennis, golf, darts). The samples were often small and comprised university students; the conclusions drawn regarding the effectiveness of if-then planning for improving sports-related performance were rather heterogeneous. Still, most studies did shed light on tentative mechanisms (e. g., perceptions of effort and pain, arousal) and moderators (e. g., athletes beliefs about their performance limits, the feasibility of the behavior) of if-then planning in sports, guiding future research regarding the question of when and for whom if-then planning might be a beneficial strategy. Based on these findings, we identify the potentials and pitfalls of using if-then plans to enhance sports-related performance, discuss promising routes for future research, and derive practical implications for athletes and coaches.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)109-120
Number of pages12
JournalZeitschrift fur Sportpsychologie
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jul 2021


  • if-then planning
  • implementation intentions
  • psychological interventions
  • scoping review
  • self-control
  • sports performance

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Physical Therapy, Sports Therapy and Rehabilitation
  • Applied Psychology


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