The Psychology of Athletic Tapering in Sport: A Scoping Review

Stone, M. J. et al. Sports Med 53, 777–801 (2023).


Taper is a common training strategy used to reduce fatigue and enhance athletic performance. However, currently, no review has summarised what psychological research has been conducted examining taper, what this research shows and what future research needs to be undertaken to extend the field.

Consequently, a scoping review was conducted with three aims:

(a) to determine the characteristics of psychological research examining taper,

(b) to summarise psychological research collected during taper with adult athletes and coaches, and

(c) to identify gaps in psychological research examining taper. Forty-eight articles were identified following an exhaustive search strategy and charted following scoping review guidelines.

Results showed most research was quantitative, used a longitudinal design, was conducted in swimming, triathlon, cycling or across multiple sports, and used a university-, regional- or national-level male athlete sample.

Eight themes were developed to summarise the research: Mood, Perception of Effort, Perceived Fatigue and Wellness, Recovery-Stress, Taper as a Stressor, Stress Tolerance, Psychological Preparation and Cognitive Functioning.

Additionally, four research recommendations were identified:

(a) conducting exploratory research that examines the impact taper has on athletes’ and coaches’ competition preparation and stress experience,

(b) asking more advanced psychological questions and conducting multi-disciplinary research,

(c) including a more diverse participant sample in studies and

(d) examining the impact of psychological interventions during taper.

Overall, this scoping review has highlighted the limited research examining the psychology of taper and the need for focused research that asks more complex questions across diverse populations.