Rob Greenwood Hired As Head Coach To Madrid Performance Centre In Spain

2021-04-21 Reading Time: 4 minutes
Rob Greenwood, UK award-winning coach now heading to Spain to lead Madrid Performance Centre - courtesy of Sports UK

Rob Greenwood, the award-winning coach who led Great Britain to a soaring tally of 47 medals at the Rio 2016 Paralympics, has been appointed head of the Madrid National Training Centre by the Royal Spanish Swimming Federation (RFEN).

Greenwood is the second big catch for Spain in the past two years, Séan Kelly, the long-time head of the successful Stockport Metro program in England, having been appointed National Performance Director to Spain in July last year.

The Madrid job attracted 40 applicants from all over the world, Greenwood the “most highly rated” by the selection committee, the RFEN announced this morning.

The federation noted Greenwood’s impressive credentials as “a top swimmer between 1996 and 2002” who entered coaching beyond his racing days and has worked at the high-performance end of swimming for the past four Olympic cycles.

Greenwood, 42, led Britain’s Paralympic Swimming to huge success at the Rio 2016 Games, where British swimmers won a total of 47 medals, 16 of them gold, for third place own the medals table. That success earned Greenwood awards, including The Sport UK Coach of the Year at the UK Coaching Awards in 2016.

Greenwood will not be working in Paralympics in Spain, his focus on elite performance in the Olympic realm. The RFEN noted:

“Greenwood comes to reinforce the technical swimming staff as a specialist in the development of elite programs and with the aim of establishing a program at the National Training Center of Madrid that contributes to preparing top-level swimmers to achieve international podiums.”

Rob Greenwood, who coached at the British Swimming ITC excellence centre in Stirling before heading the national Paralympic program, told State of Swimming that he was looking forward to getting stuck into the job of getting the Madrid Centre up, running and thriving as a place “where … athletes, coaches and practitioner can maximise self and others”. He said:

Rob Greenwood - Sports Uk Coach of the year in 2016 for his work at the helm of the successful British para-swimming team at the Rio Paralympics

“It’s an huge honour to be working for RFEN and Sean Kelly the National performance director, both have a history of delivering performance and it’s going to be a privilege to be part of what is being built. The Coaches, Athletes and Staff are some of the best in the world and I’m looking forward to being able to support and learn from them.”

On the Madrid performance, Greenwood added:

“We have a clean canvas in Madrid and its our hope to build a world leading environment where are athletes, coaches and practitioner can maximise self and others. I’m truly looking forward to the challenge ahead.”

Rob Greenwood – Sports Uk Coach of the year in 2016 for his work at the helm of the successful British para-swimming team at the Rio Paralympics

New Start For Rob Greenwood & Madrid Centre

The appointment also marks a clean canvas for Rob Greenwood, who left British Swimming as an award-winning coach in 2017 only to find himself, along with others, at the heart of controversy following complaints by unnamed athletes from the GB Paralympic team that they had been subjected to bullying by the coaching staff on the way to huge success at the Rio 2016 Paralympics.

Led at the time by David Sparkes as CEO, British Swimming, which had given Greenwood a significant pay rise after his award-winning job at the Rio Games, appointed two investigators to deliver a report and recommendations. The federation subsequently issued an apology to athletes and families over what was described by British Swimming as the “climate of fear” some athletes felt that they had been subjected to.

No member of the management at the federation stepped down, none was penalised nor removed from any post, while one of those accused of misconduct remains in post to this day.

Rob Greenwood’s name was leaked to media, however, and as a result, he lost two job offers overseas during and then at the conclusion of the inquiry. Potential employers in Ireland and Canada confirmed that they had never seen the inquiry report, which was never placed in the public domain.

Greenwood denied all allegations and was backed and supported by the British Swimming Coaches Association (statement in full here), including the view of the English Institute of Sport (EIS) on a critical point. The EIS and its experts were never called to give evidence to investigators appointed by British Swimming.

In its statement in support of coaches in 2017, the EIS rejected the notion that a psychological test set designed to challenge the resilience of athletes could be linked to claims of “bullying” or a “climate of fear”. The EIS noted:

“The pressure technique deployed is an example of a range of services that a performance psychologist would routinely deliver as part of their work to support coaches and athletes in achieving improvements in performance.’ In this instance, the programme was designed with input from athletes … and intended, at their request, to help produce training conditions that felt more like a competition situation.”


The training set using the ‘pressure technique’ ended with those swimmers who passed the test being rewarded with an afternoon out in a nearby town, for shopping, site seeing and ice-cream. Those who did not pass the test stayed behind in the exclusive Thanyapura Sports & Health Resort in Thailand where the Britain Paralympic training camp was being held.

The resort has long been a training venue for leading swimming teams in Europe, the Dutch team among regular visitors in the past decade. Among complaints against the coaching staff on the British Paralympic camp, which included observers from the EIS, was one that suggested athletes who did not pass the pressure test were “locked in their rooms”, according to the BSCA. That allegation was wholly rejected by those giving evidence to the inquiry.

The BSCA gave Greenwood its “full support & backing”.  

Asked about all of that history today, Greenwood said:

“Its difficult to look back on post Rio, which was an amazing experience and result for the team, and not feel a little sad at how things transpired. 

Nobody came away from what was a poor process feeling good about what had happened. But with support from my family, friends, the coaching community and the amazing people and athletes at the club I’m currently working at Pioneer79, Ive been able to move on, I can’t thank them all enough.”

Rob Greenwood
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