School of Sport, Exercise and Health Sciences


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 started his career in higher education at the University of Brighton. He joined Loughborough University in 1999 as a lecturer and is currently a Reader in Sport and Exercise Psychology. He has taught predominantly in the areas of psychology, research methods and pedagogy.

Chris’ research interests are in young people’s experiences of PE, sport, and physical activity. His work has adopted a number of approaches to explain motivation, self-perceptions and behaviour in school and youth sport settings.

Chris is a Chartered Psychologist, Associate Fellow of the British Psychological Society and Fellow of the Higher Education Academy.

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 in PE
  • Amotivation in PE
  • Stressors and resilience in PE
  • Education and support for teachers, coaches and parents in PE and sport

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 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 (co-supervisor 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 (co-supervisor Professor Chris Harwood) 2010.

Dr Juliette Stebbings: Correlates of coach interpersonal behaviours: A self-determination theory perspective (co-supervisor 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.

Dr Rachel Jackson-Kersey: Amotivation in physical education.

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

Dr Kate Tudor: Stressors and resilience in physical education 2018.

Associate Editor:

Psychology of Sport and Exercise, official journal of the European Federation of Sport Psychology FEPSAC (2013-2018)

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; 2018-2019), European Physical Education Review (2012- ), European Journal of Human Movement (2014- )

Reviewer for 27 international scientific journals.

Digest Compiler:

Journal of Sport & Exercise Psychology (2005-2007)

Grant Reviewer:

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

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

Bangor University: Gareth Morgan 2017

Leeds Beckett University: Sergio Lara-Bercial 2018

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-)

  • Warburton, V.E. & Spray, C.M. (2017). Implicit theories of ability in physical education: Current issues and future directions. Journal of Teaching in Physical Education, 36, 252-261.
  • Stebbings, J, Taylor, I.M. & Spray, C.M. (2016). Interpersonal mechanisms explaining the transfer of well- and ill-being in coach-athlete dyads. Journal of Sport & Exercise Psychology, 38, 292-304.
  • Vella, S.A., Braithwaite, R.E., Gardner, L. & Spray, C.M. (2016). A systematic review and meta-analysis of implicit theory research in sport, physical activity, and physical education. International Review of Sport and Exercise Psychology, 9, 191-214.
  • 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.