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Now browsing: Hometown News > News > Indian River County

Retiring coach recognized for dedication, impact on students
Rating: 2.55 / 5 (55 votes)  
Posted: 2012 Nov 16 - 06:47

 

 

By Jessica Tuggle

jtuggle@hometownnewsol.com

 

 

SEBASTIAN - The outstanding accomplishments and influence of one man in the local athletic arena was recognized last week at Sebastian River High School.

Longtime coach William Henry "Bill" Wilson was presented a plaque at halftime during the Sebastian River High School football game on Nov. 9. The plaque honors Mr. Wilson, who will retire from assistant coaching Sebastian River High School's football and track and field teams.

When someone spends about half a century coaching young people in athletics, that person deserves legendary status and special recognition from the community, said Michael Stutzke, Sebastian River High School athletic director.

Mr. Stutzke was coached by Mr. Wilson more than 40 years ago on the Vero Beach High School track and field team.

"He has been 'my' coach, mentor and friend for 42 years. His influence around the state, but especially here in Indian River County, spans 50 years and is truly a career of legendary proportion," Mr. Stutzke said in a memo.

Mr. Wilson graduated from Florida A&M University in 1961 and received his master's degree in physical education from there in 1967. He played halfback on the school's football team and was on the undefeated black national championship team in 1961.

Soon after receiving his undergraduate degree, Mr. Wilson began coaching at the high-school level. He moved to Gifford 1966 and coached at Gifford High School until 1968 when the school was integrated with Vero Beach High School in 1968.

"I was a member of his track team in 1970. He's been a major influence on my life and in so many lives in Indian River County," Mr. Stutzke said in an interview.

During the time of integration, Mr. Wilson was a calm leader who cared about his athletes and that helped tremendously with the transition, he said.

Mr. Wilson has 22 district track and field championships and seven regional championships for track and field under his belt.

"He is the only coach in Indian River County history to win two state championships back-to-back, in 1989 and 1990. He also was very much responsible for the 1981 Vero Beach High School football championship," Mr. Stutzke said.

According to the Florida High School Athletic Association, when he retired from Vero Beach High School in 1997, 44 student-athletes who played for him received athletic scholarships to college.

"He really is a beloved coach," Mr. Stutzke said.

When he came to Sebastian River High School, Mr. Wilson began to work with established coaches, some of whom were his former students, including current Sebastian River High School head football coach, Randy Bethel.

Earlier this month, Mr. Bethel coached the Sebastian River High School varsity football team to the first district championship in the school's 19-year history, beating previously undefeated South Fork High School.

Working with Mr. Wilson has always been a learning experience for Mr. Bethel, and he will miss Mr. Wilson's words of wisdom.

"One of the things he stressed was that athletes are people. You've got to know your athletes, what makes them tick, what's going on at home," Mr. Bethel said.

Developing a relationship with the students, but also with personnel on the coaching staff makes for a stronger, more unified team, he said.

Though he tries not to think about coaching without Mr. Wilson, one thing he already knows he will miss is Mr. Wilson's sense of humor.

"I have lots of memories. I'll miss being around him every day and just laughing. He's a jokester, he's always got something going on," Mr. Bethel said.

The track at Vero Beach High School is named after Mr. Wilson, and one of the largest track and field events in the state, held at Sebastian River High School, is called the "Bill Wilson Relays."

Mr. Wilson was inducted into the Florida A&M University Sports Hall of Fame in 1984, the USA-Florida Track and Field Hall of Fame in 1994, the Florida Athletic Coaches Association Hall of Fame in 1995 and the Florida High School Athletic Association Hall of Fame in 2001.

His family has a tradition in education: his wife, Kathryn, served on the Indian River County School Board, his son, Billy, is an assistant principal at Sebastian River High School and his daughter, Yolanda, is a physical education teacher at Oslo Middle School, Mr. Stutzke said.




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