Inspiring teamwork – Singapore’s double success at the Rio 2016 Paralympics

Dulwich College (Singapore) could not be prouder of their Head of Swimming, Mick Massey.  As well as managing a challenging full time job, Mick Massey is also the Head Coach and mastermind behind Singapore's amazing double gold and bronze Paralympic medal winners, Yip Pin Xiu and Theresa Goh. In this article, Mick discusses with his colleague at the College how teamwork and dedication led to success this summer in Rio. 

By Emily Shaw


For the last nineteen months, Yip Pin Xiu (or PX as Mick and her friends refer to her) and Theresa Goh have been training three times a week at the new Aquatic Centre at Dulwich College (Singapore).  As the girls themselves will tell you, having the Headmaster, Nick Magnus and the College as a whole embrace and welcome them to use the facilities was one of the pivotal moments in the story of their success.  If you ask Mick what else was critical to the success of these two girls at the 2016 Paralympics, he will tell you it was having the right team in place.


In 2014, Mick moved to Singapore to take up the chance of a lifetime – to build from scratch a world class swim program within the College.  The vision was to build the best school's sports teams in Asia and in the space of his 45 minute interview, Mick was convinced it was the right move and challenge for him.  "It’s not an opportunity many coaches get – to build a team and a swim program from scratch; to start with nothing apart from a muddy hole in the ground".  His promise to Headmaster Nick Magnus was to provide him with the winning swim team for the 2019 Dulwich Olympiad in London, in time to celebrate the College’s 400th Anniversary.



Most people would think that was enough of a challenge, but soon after Mick's arrival he was approached by Richard Gordon, Director of High Performance Sport in Singapore, and Henry Tan from the Singapore Disabilities Sports Council.  "They told me they had two girls who had the potential to go to the Paralympics in Rio" says Mick.  Despite his commitment to the College they were determined they wanted Mick for this role.  They told him if he was willing to take it on, they would work with the College to ensure he would be able to perform both roles.  


"My philosophy is always the same when given a challenge, say yes and then go away and work out how you can achieve what you just signed up for.  One of the things I have taken a lot of credit for in my career is building great support teams.  My priority in January 2015 was to build the girls' support team and prepare them for the challenge ahead", Mick says.  He cites this huge focus on the team surrounding the girls as the key to success in Rio.  At the time in Singapore, the concept of having a specific team of people, purely for two athletes and a coach, was unheard of.  "With complex physical disabilities, you need a team that knows the athlete inside out".  Mick finally managed to convince the Singapore Sports Institute to allow him a unit to drive the girls forward. This approach was ground-breaking in Singapore. 


Over a period of four to five months Mick built this team – with himself as head coach along with a team manager, physiotherapist, physiologist, biomechanist and nutritionist.  "I lead the team and my experience makes me a successful leader.  I want my staff to be able to come to me with crazy ideas, to be unafraid of challenging me.  You have to give people in a team autonomy in their area and not quash their enthusiasm.  I may say no to an idea but we look together at which bits of that idea we can take and build something else.” 


The next and most crucial stage was to bond this team together.  The team spent a lot of time training outside of Singapore away from the stresses of media, family and friends.  "To go away with the whole team was seen as highly unusual" says Mick. "But I was emulating the situation we would be in in the holding camp before Rio.  We could see what worked and what didn't and the team had quality time to bond". This is what years of experience had taught him.  Even the accommodation they stayed in was crucial. "We all stay in one apartment and eat, sleep and train together.  This is central to team bonding.  To be successful, all members of a team have to communicate well.  The better you know each other in and out of work, the better the team functions and performs.  It sounds simple, but it’s not that common in sport”.


Over a period of 19 months this team trained and developed as a tight unit and the girls were on a steep upward curve of improvement.  “We left for Rio in great shape.  The initial goal had been for Theresa to reach the final and for PX to stand on the podium.  By the time we reached Rio we believed we could do better than that” says Mick.  And he was right.  Yip Pin Xiu won gold in the Women’s S2 100m backstroke and broke two world records.  She then went on to win a second gold medal in the 50m backstroke.  Theresa Goh, who despite being the most decorated athlete of any sport in the ASEAN Paralympic Games, had never won a medal at the Paralympics in a sixteen year career.  Finally in Rio she achieved her dream and won a bronze medal in the SB4 100m breaststroke. 



So what now for Mick? “I came to Singapore in 2014 to build a swim team for Dulwich College (Singapore) and that is my number one priority” says Mick.  “We have some tremendously talented young athletes here in the College and my challenge is to nurture that talent through to their youth years.  It requires a lot of training and commitment but I am very fortunate to work with a highly experienced, committed and passionate team of staff and that is the key to success”.





Emily Shaw is Marketing and Communications Manager at Dulwich College (Singapore).  The College opened its doors in August 2014 and is the first British independent school to open in Singapore.  The global Dulwich family of schools is one school across many campuses and its ethos is inspiring the children of today to take a leading role in tomorrow's world.  Built on nearly 400 years of innovation, Dulwich College (Singapore) is an academically selective school balancing traditional academic rigour with a modern learning approach within a structured and inspirational framework.  Emily has over thirteen years of global experience in Events Marketing, Communications and Sponsorship Management within Investment Banking and Education. Emily has been in Singapore for 3 years with her husband and two children who also attend Dulwich. For more information visit