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Billy Wilken whitewater kayaking

William "Billy" Wilken

USSF Coach, Adventure Camp Director

Born in Washington DC, Billy has three decades of experience as a soccer coach, environmental educator, trip leader, paddling instructor, staff trainer, teambuilding guru and mentor.


He spent his youth playing soccer in Northern Virginia and as a result of his diverse coaching exposure, went on to play NCAA Division I Soccer at East Carolina University and enjoyed a long semi-pro career until he was 38. He has coached numerous teams and players to new skill levels on the field.

He first became certified as a flat water canoe instructor in 1990 with the American Canoe Association, ultimately receiving an ACA whitewater instructor certification in 1997 and spent 10 years as a whitewater kayak instructor in Harpers Ferry, West Virginia. Since then he has offered technical instruction and environmental education packaged in pure, wet fun.  


Currently certified as a Wilderness First Responder & First Aid/CPR, Billy also has a Red Cross Bundle 5 Waterfront certification and is highly trained in all manners of ropes course, rock climbing, and swift water rescue. He is an active participant in the wilderness medical field.

Billy is trained as a Master Ropes Course practitioner and is a seasoned Program Event Developer having worked with small and large groups of all ages and energy levels; from school-aged youth to high-end corporate groups to include Anthony Robbins. He has also served several different institutions either as an in-class math and science teacher or an Adventure Camp Director.


His real love remains working with smaller groups of kids. Billy is in his element teaching sports skills and guiding outdoor adventures such as fishing, kayaking, canoeing, hiking, nature walks, stream stomping, and disc golf. He is known for slipping in clever games and questions as well as environmental science during his time with kids that teach decision-making, life skills and respect for nature without them even realizing. Coupled with extensive travel and cultural experience, Billy’s perspective has historically inspired intense positive change with his clients. "Changing the world one person at a time."


Academically, two degrees: Associative Arts, B.A., Cabrillo College, 1989.  Parks and Recreation, Resource Management, B.S., George Mason University, 1995.


Read an assortment of the many accolades he has accumulated over the years here. See Billy's profile on for more including background check certification.


Member of the Charlotte Football Club's Youth Development Program Coaching Staff




A World Cup Trophy for the Men’s National Soccer Team embodies OPTIMISM.  It is a driving force influencing far beyond international sport.  Optimist Training identifies and develops strategies to achieve excellence no matter the genius. Clearly, not everyone will play high-level sports. Soccer is the laser focus of Optimist Training programs, but the tangential effect can be profound. An individual, group, team, or even high-level business shall measure benefit when choosing to put in the overtime necessary to achieve excellence.

One coach shared a training ethos that Billy has honed over the last 30 years, “To be sure, witnessing the Men’s National Team win a World Cup is the dream.  If an average athlete like Billy can play as long and storied a career, imagine what this practice could do for an exceptional athlete.”

Developing laser-focused programs to support people of all ages and energy levels no matter their charge - is our charge.


Stephanie Vendrell

OT Program Facilitator,

Integrative Nutrition Health Coach

Also originally from Northern Virginia, Stephanie has a wide and diverse background. After graduating from Georgetown she moved to Hollywood where she worked as a Special Effects artist for a decade. Then along with her stuntman husband she moved to Kona, Hawaii in the early 2000s where they owned a school teaching martial arts and yoga. She lived in Hawaii until 2019.

After she was widowed in 2013, Stephanie spent several years writing for an international grief organization and is currently working on a book. You can read some of her old posts at She also invested a lot of time and energy into learning about nutrition science and was awarded her health coaching certification from the Institute for Integrative Nutrition in 2017.


In 2019, she made the move back to the East coast to care for family. She ran into her old high school friend Billy during a chance encounter with friends and as they say, the rest is history. She is currently serving as co-owner and operator at Optimist Training. She is also a member of the IATSE 322 theater stagehand union in Charlotte.

Stephanie Vendrell and Billy Wilken
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