Dr Christopher Spray


  • Reader in Sport and Exercise Psychology

Chris obtained his first degree in Sport and Recreation Studies from North Staffordshire Polytechnic, a Postgraduate Certificate in Education (Physical Education and Geography) from Loughborough University of Technology, and a PhD from the University of Exeter. In 1998, following 11 years as a teacher of PE, Chris started his career in higher education at the University of Brighton. He joined Loughborough University in 1999.

Chris’s research interests centre on the psychology of PE and youth sport, and he teaches modules focused on psychology for physical educators.

He is a Chartered Psychologist and Associate Fellow of the British Psychological Society, Fellow of the British Association of Sport and Exercise Sciences, and Fellow of the Higher Education Academy.

Chris’s 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 styles
  • 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
  • School transitions

Grant Funding

The Football Association: Psychology for football research programme. Co-I with Professor Stuart Biddle.

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

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.

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 2016.
  • Dr Sam Thrower: Parent support and educational needs in tennis (co-supervisor Professor Chris Harwood) 2016.
  • 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-), European Physical Education Review (2012-), European Journal of Human Movement (2014- ), Asian Journal of Sport and Exercise Psychology (2020-).

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 Pol 2011; 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 (2012-2017)

Featured publications

  • Tudor, K.E., Sarkar, M. & Spray C.M.(2020). Resilience in physical education: A qualitative exploration of protective factors. European Physical Education Review, 26, 284-302.
  • de Cruz, N.P., Spray, C.M. & Smith, B. (2019). Implicit beliefs of disability and elite sport: The para-athlete experience. Qualitative Research in Sport, Exercise and Health, 11, 69-91.
  • Thrower, S., Harwood, C.G. & Spray, C.M. (2019). Educating and supporting tennis parents using web-based delivery methods: A novel online education program. Journal of Applied Sport Psychology, 31, 303-323.
  • Tudor, K.E., Sarkar, M. & Spray, C.M. (2019). Exploring common stressors in physical education: A qualitative study. European Physical Education Review, 25, 675-690.
  • Tudor, K.E. & Spray, C.M. (2018). Approaches to measuring academic resilience: A systematic review. International Journal of Research Studies in Education, 7(4), 41-61.
  • Thrower, Harwood & Spray, C.M. (2017). Educating and supporting tennis parents: An action research study. Qualitative Research in Sport, Exercise and Health, 9, 600-618.
  • 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.