Bill Tancred

As we grow, we may find that we look up to someone who has achieved greatness, who has set a benchmark in our lives and moulds our own beliefs and desires. These inspirational people can be from anyone that we have never met to our own parents.

In the sport and fitness world, there are many athletes and coaches that exude amazing qualities by obtaining overall success in their careers but also pulling others up with them. There are the coaches that work tirelessly to ensure those athletes stay on track and progress to reach their full potential.

When I was at University, studying Leisure Management and Sport, I found myself a bit disheartened with the course. Back in the 90’s, sport courses were very broad based and not very focussed on one particular area, as they are today.

However, one module and tutor did grab my attention, engaging me in all of his lessons. Bill Tancred MBE, taught coaching education and I found myself totally focussed. I think what grabbed my attention were his stories of his past as he was an Olympian, competing in the 1968 and 1972 games. His sport discipline was Discus and he was coached by the legend Frank Dick. Bill also competed in successive Commonwealth Games from 1970 to 1974, winning bronze and silver medals.

By using his own experiences, incorporating them in to his lessons he created realism in the learning and fuelled my own interest in athletic development.


Bill competed in the 1968 and 1972 Olympics, became the Commonwealth Silver medallist in 1974 and still holds the British record for the Discus throw back in 1974. Bill was a giant in his field and extremely competitive. He travelled around the world doing what he loved, working with and against some great athletes and coaches. His competition days were truly colourful and he aspired to be the best thrower in his day but, due to injury, he retired in 1976. He then took to coaching, which he did from 1980 to 2008, as well as teaching for Loughborough University, Sheffield University, Buckinghamshire & Chilterns University College in the late 90’s. He was an advocate for fitness training and wrote the book ‘Weight Training for Sport’ alongside his brother, Geoff Tancred. He was a Strength & Conditioning Coach to the British Olympic Association and Olympic Games preparation. He has helped open up some of the most amazing sporting facilities to date and secured funding to create evidence based research in to injury causes through sport and sporting surfaces. When you read his current book ‘An Ordinary Olympian, But What A Life’, you can really see why he was such a successful man. A balance between an athlete, coach, family man and a true educator and mentor to so many after him.

I spoke with Bill to find out who inspired him and how it drove him to his success.

Mel: Thank you for chatting with me. The book is full of amazing stories. I didn’t realise you had achieved so much!

Bill: I was very lucky but worked hard to succeed. My work ethic was high and I was very driven. I was lucky to have supportive parents and, later on, a very supportive wife and family.

Mel: I’ve been discussing with a few of my clients about who their inspirations are and who helps them drive to succeed. There are a lot of social media inspirations… some good, most are bad, but coming from an era where your inspiration wouldn’t have been so accessible, who was it and why?

Bill: There were a couple that stand out for me. These guys were both Olympians and overcame massive obstacles to succeed. The first was Bob Mathias who won the 1948 Olympics in Decathlon at the tender age of 17. He went on to win it again in 1952 with a clear point range of 912 points to take home the gold and set a new world record as well as maintaining the gold from the previous Olympics. He was a natural talent.


The second was a man named Károly Takács, born in 1910, he was a Hungarian athlete who twice won Olympic gold medals in rapid-fire pistol shooting despite having his shooting hand maimed by a hand grenade when he was a sergeant in the Hungarian army.


He was a member of his nation’s world championship pistol shooting team. At age 28, however, a grenade exploded in his right hand, leaving him without its use. He amazingly taught himself to shoot left-handed and, 10 years later, set a world and an Olympic record with 580 points to win the gold medal at the 1948 Olympics in London. He won a second gold medal with 579 points at the 1952 Olympics in Helsinki, again using his left hand. Such an amazing achievement with masses of self-belief.

Mel: They are definitely inspirational athletes to look up to. What’s your philosophy in reaching the top of your game?

Bill: I think the road to success is that you must always aim high, no matter what you go in to, you must want to be the best as well as identifying your weakness so these can be practised. Self-belief is paramount and even though training is hard and failing at some of the smaller events, you must pick yourself up and improve. Focus always and set realistic goals.

Mel: What were your weaknesses?

Bill: Looking back on my athletic career, I neglected the psychology and many times struggled to control the anxiety of competing. I lacked self-discipline when it came to recovery and rest, although back then, it wasn’t really a ‘thing’ and I feel that hindered some of the throwing performances. A lack of vision and periodisation in the programming lacked too so I never really knew when I was at my peak stage of performance. Nutrition was an issue. We would be quite happy to tuck in to a pint after training. With this and looking back, there were only marginal gains through each season and my knowledge in preparation for competition was quite limited to what athletes do today.

Mel: You were quite a pioneer when it came to introducing fitness, strength and conditioning sessions within big institutions including Athletic Associations and Universities. What do you think of coaches of today?

Bill: Coaching has become a lot more serious with an increase in the number of professional coaches  and there are more full-time jobs as technical and fitness coaches. There is a bigger appreciation of the technicalities and the science behind movement and fitness. A good coach will set the right environment for their athletes and ensure there is always healthy competition. There are more female coaches today than there were in the 60’s and 70’s which is fantastic but this number could still improve and it’s trying to encourage more women to coach either technically or within the fitness arena.

For a coach to improve, there needs to be experience by doing. There can be a problem when coaches read so much but it’s the actual practice of coaching, observing your athletes and experimenting with training as well as programming for their needs. That’s how a coach develops and brings success.

*end of interview*

Bill Tancred MBE will always be a legend in my eyes as he was the person who first inspired me to become not only a fitness coach but an athlete performance coach. It took me many years to get to a place where I’m happy with my career and lucky enough to do something I really love but, looking back, he ignited that interest and passion for coaching.

From Bill’s book, he finishes with this: “I hope in some ways that I have been an inspiration and actually encouraged young people to take up sport and be physically active throughout their lives. Everyone needs support and encouragement and if that is given, then with hard work and determination, anything is possible”.

You should always follow your passion and goals. Never underestimate your potential and realise that working towards success takes hard graft and time but it is so worth it. You never know who is watching and who you could be inspiring!

Team UK, Invictus Games Sydney 2018

You may have read my last article about the Invictus Games Trials weekend that I attended with my husband. Well, I am delighted to announce that my husband Darren Young has made the Invictus UK Team. We are thrilled and excited to be travelling to Sydney in October where he will be competing in Sitting Volleyball, Discus, Shot Put and Rowing. We are extremely proud and along with my son, we will be off to support him and the rest of the team as they compete against 17 other countries. The Invictus Games will be televised and will run 20th-27th October 2018.

Mel Young

Read Mel’s last articles here

The athlete and the coach

Lifting yourself from the depths of depression?

Changing habits, new year, new you


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