School of Sport, Exercise and Health Sciences


Dr Christopher Spray

Photo of Dr Christopher Spray

Reader in Sport and Exercise Psychology

Chris obtained his first degree in Sport and Recreation Studies from North Staffordshire Polytechnic and Postgraduate Certificate in Education (Physical Education and Geography) from Loughborough University of Technology. In 1992, he registered for a part-time PhD in the School of Education at the University of Exeter. In January 1998, following 11 years as a teacher of PE and the completion of his PhD, Chris joined the University of Brighton as a senior lecturer in sport and exercise psychology. He joined Loughborough University in 1999 as a lecturer and was promoted to senior lecturer in 2007. He has taught predominantly in the areas of sport and exercise psychology, research methods and pedagogy. Currently, he is the Director of Undergraduate Studies in SSEHS.

Chris’ research interests are in young people’s experiences of PE, sport, and physical activity. His work has adopted social cognitive and humanistic perspectives to explain motivation, self-perceptions and behaviour in school, youth sport, and leisure-time contexts.

Chris is a Chartered Psychologist and Associate Fellow of the British Psychological Society.

Chris’ work on motivational processes in youth physical activity has centred on the following areas:

  • Achievement goals

  • Motivational climate

  • Implicit theories of ability

  • Fear of failure

  • Teaching/coaching behaviours, need satisfaction/thwarting and motivation regulations

  • Self-esteem and physical self-worth

  • Self-regulation processes in sport and education

  • Social comparison processes

  • Amotivation in PE

  • Education and support for teachers, coaches and parents


Grant Funding:

The Football Association: Psychology for football research programme. Co-I with Professor Stuart Biddle £75,000 2002.

The British Academy: Motivation in physical education across the primary-secondary school transition: Assessing the influence of perceived climate. £7,213 2007.

Nuffield Foundation The motivational environment in PE and its effects on children’s well-being and behaviour across the primary-secondary school transition. Co-I with Dr Ian Taylor £14,915 2010.

Research Student Supervision:


Professor John Wang: Ability beliefs, achievement goals, and intrinsic motivation in physical education (co-supervisor with Professor Stuart Biddle) 2001.

Dr Gareth Morgan: Coaching behaviours and players’ motivation in elite youth football 2006.

Dr Sam Sagar: Fear of failure among young elite athletes (with Professor David Lavallee) 2007.

Dr Victoria Warburton: Approach-avoidance motivation in physical education 2008.

Dr Richard Keegan: An exploration of the motivationally-relevant behaviours of coaches, parents, and peers across the athletic career span (with Dr Chris Harwood) 2010.

Dr Juliette Stebbings: Correlates of coach interpersonal behaviours: A self-determination theory perspective (co-supervisor with Dr Ian Taylor) 2012.

Dr Jemima Barnes: Social comparison in physical education: Motives, frames of reference and consequences 2013.

Dr Monica Dorobantu: Motivation and self-regulation in education and sport 2014.

Current students

Mrs Rachel Jackson-Kersey: Amotivation in physical education.

Mr Sam Thrower: Parent support and educational needs in tennis (co-supervisor with Dr Chris Harwood).

Ms Kate Tudor: The role of implicit theories of ability in children’s resilience in physical education.

Associate Editor

Psychology of Sport and Exercise, official journal of the European Federation of Sport Psychology FEPSAC (2013-)

Editorial/Advisory Board Member:

Sport & Exercise Psychology Review (2005-2010), International Review of Sport and Exercise Psychology (2006- ), Psychology of Sport and Exercise (2011-2013), European Physical Education Review (2012-), European Journal of Human Movement (2014-)

Reviewer for 25 international scientific journals.

Digest Compiler:

Journal of Sport & Exercise Psychology (2005-2007)

Grant Reviewer:

Grant reviewer for The Nuffield Foundation, Bupa Foundation, and the Estonian Science Foundation.

PhD External Examiner:

The University of Birmingham:

Spyridoula Vazou 2004

Luke Sage 2007

James Adie 2009

Pepijn Van de Pol2011

Laura Healy 2015

University of Wales Institute Cardiff:

Kevin Morgan 2005

University of Huelva, Spain:

Bartolomé J. Almagro 2012

BSc/MSc External Examiner:

St Mary’s University College, Twickenham (BSc Sport Science) (2004-2008)

Northumbria University (MSc Sport and Exercise Psychology) (2010-2013)

University of Bath (BSc Sport and Exercise Science) (2011-2015)

Other External Activities:

BPS Division of Sport and Exercise Psychology Training Committee (2005-2010)

Pearson Education Physical Education Strategic Advisory Group (2012-)

  • Taylor, I.M., Spray, C.M. & Pearson, N. (2014). The influence of the physical education environment on children’s well-being and physical activity across the primary-secondary school transition, Journal of Sport & Exercise Psychology, 36, 574-583.
  • Jowett, N. & Spray, C.M. (2013). British Olympic hopefuls: The antecedents and consequences of implicit ability beliefs in elite track and field athletes. Psychology of Sport and Exercise, 14, 145-153.
  • Spray, C.M., Warburton, V.E. & Stebbings, J. (2013). Change in physical self-perceptions across the transition to secondary school: Relationships with perceived teacher-emphasised achievement goals in physical education. Psychology of Sport and Exercise, 14, 662-669.
  • Braithwaite, R., Spray, C.M. & Warburton, V.E. (2011). Motivational climate interventions in physical education: A meta-analysis. Psychology of Sport and Exercise, 12, 628-638.
  • Spray, C.M. & Warburton, V.E. (2011). Temporal relations among multidimensional perceptions of competence and trichotomous achievement goals in physical education.Psychology of Sport and Exercise, 12, 515-524.
  • Keegan, R.J., Harwood, C.G., Spray, C.M. & Lavallee, D.E. (2009). A qualitative investigation exploring the motivational climate in early-career sports participants: Coach, parent and peer influences on sport motivation. Psychology of Sport and Exercise, 10, 361-372.
  • Warburton, V.E. & Spray, C.M. (2008). Motivation in physical education across the primary-secondary school transition. European Physical Education Review, 14, 157-178.
  • Spray, C.M., Wang, C.K.J., Biddle, S.J.H., Chatzisarantis, N.L.D. & Warburton, V.E. (2006). An experimental test of self-theories of ability in youth sport. Psychology of Sport and Exercise, 7, 255-267.
  • Biddle, S.J.H., Wang, C.K.J., Chatzisarantis, N.L.D. & Spray, C.M. (2003). Motivation for physical activity in young people: Entity and incremental beliefs concerning athletic ability. Journal of Sports Sciences 21, 973-989.
  • Wang, C.K.J., Chatzisarantis, N.L.D., Spray, C.M. & Biddle, S.J.H. (2002). Achievement goal profiles in school physical education: Differences in self-determination, sport ability beliefs, and physical activity. British Journal of Educational Psychology 72, 433-445.

You can view a fuller publications list on the University Publications Database.