Coach Bill Tilden On Coaching Adaptive Athletes

As the current Athletic Director and track coach at Old Rochester Regional High School, Bill Tilden has played an integral role motivating physically disabled athletes, helping them find a sport they can excel at. He stated that one of the reasons he became involved in coaching was to teach exceptional athletes like Josh Winsper. This young athlete is currently a senior at Old Rochester Regional High School. He started in shot put when he was a freshman and now he is making a splash in local headlines due to his outstanding performances.

Bill Tilden and JoshLast summer, he even set a record at National Junior Disability Championships for his discus throw. Tilden first met Josh when he was a baseball player — but Tilden felt Josh could potentially achieve a greater amount of success in track and field. This turned out to be true as Josh currently holds multiple school records and he has inspired other athletes, such as Mikayla Chandler, to compete. Now, Mikayla is a freshman Old Rochester Regional High School and with the support of Bill Tilden and the inspiration of Josh Winsper, she is also building a road of achievements.

Coach Tilden helped Josh achieve this level of success and has said, “[Josh has] made a name for himself in the throwing events. I don’t think he would’ve had that same opportunity in baseball.” If it weren’t for Coach Tilden and his ability to recognize the potential in young athletes, Josh might still be hitting baseballs instead of breaking records with his discus throwing talents.

Making a difference, at home and across the state…

Besides his work at Old Rochester, Tilden serves on the Executive board of the Mass State Track Coaches Association and on the Track & Cross Country Committee of the Mass Interscholastic Athletic Association.  Both organizations have embraced addition of adaptive-category events at MA high school track competition this spring, largely because of the leadership of Bill Tilden and Durfee High School head coach, Joe LeMar.

PR Lab at Boston University had the opportunity to chat with the amazing Coach Tilden at MIAA All-State Track & Field meet at Reggie Lewis Center. He took the time to address athletes and coaches who might be concerned about having a disabled athlete on their team and said that, “there are no limits. You know, whatever somebody’s disability is, don’t hesitate to get them out on your team. They’re going to become a role model. They’re going to show you that they can do the work, too. Let them be part of your team.”

This is true in the case of Josh, Mikayla, and thousands of other athletes across the country who are breaking down barriers by challenging themselves to compete in varsity sports that might have previously been off-limits to them. Tilden stated that achieving new personal bests is a big reason why so many adaptive athletes try as hard as they do. Tilden explained that these personal bests can be achieved “whether it’s in the weight room, in the throwing circle on the track” or in any sport that encourages athletes to do better.

“There are no limits…They’re going to become a role model.”

Tilden is optimistic about the future of adaptive sports and said “that kids are getting opportunities they didn’t have in the past.” This wasn’t always the case, but people have begun to realize that adaptive sports provide both great opportunities for the athletes as well as an entertaining spectator experience for those looking for something fresh and exciting. Tilden reiterated his views on coaching adaptive athletes and stated that “you don’t think of it as an adaptive sport, you think of it as another athlete that you’re going to find success with.”

Clearly this attitude has paid off as Tilden and his athletes have achieved a high level of success over the past few years.

If you live in the Greater Boston area and you have a physical disability or a visual impairment, we’d love to meet you at the upcoming Paralympic Experience, happening on April 24, 2016 at Boston College High School in Dorchester. The Paralympic Experience is a one-day, multi-sport, introductory clinic for youth and adults to try Paralympic sports and to meet staff from adaptive sport programs from Boston and across New England. For more information and to register, please visit our Eventbrite page. We hope to see you there!