Tessa Spillane to Receive 2016 Ernestine Bayer Award

Behind every successful team is a strong and dedicated leader. For Wellesley College women’s crew, head coach Tessa Spillane is that and much more to her team.

Now in her 11th season as head coach of the Wellesley College women’s team, Spillane has guided the program to its first-ever Division III title at the 2016 NCAA Rowing Championships. As a result, she was named CRCA Division III National Coach of the Year.

And now Spillane can add another accomplishment to that list, the 2016 USRowing Ernestine Bayer Award. The award, formerly known as the Woman of the Year, recognizes outstanding contributions to women’s rowing.

The recognition for her hard work came as a surprise to Spillane, who acknowledges her athletes and assistant coaches for the effort they have put into the team and their success, including assistants Seth Hussey and Hannah Woodruff (’11) who have been named the CRCA Division III Coaching Staff of the Year.

“It was really about the team doing it, and not so much me as a coach,” said Spillane. “The fact that we had this great year isn’t really about me; it’s about what they did. This is going to be an award I’m going to share with all my athletes and coaches and administrators and all of the people who supported me and mentored me along the way.”

Spillane began her rowing career during her freshman year at Mount Holyoke College. After graduating, she maintained her passion for the sport by coaching at the Gonzaga Boys High School. From there, she was assigned as assistant coach at Mount Holyoke, where she stayed for four years before heading west to serve as the men’s and women’s head coach for Lewis and Clark College.

Eventually feeling drawn back to the east coast, Spillane began coaching at Wellesley College during the fall of 2005.

Spillane has led the women of the Blue Crew to seven consecutive DIII appearances at the NCAA Rowing Championships, five consecutive NEWMAC Conference titles and has coached 10 All-Americans. Wellesley has been ranked in the top 10 for Division III rowing teams for the last seven seasons, a testament to the time Spillane has dedicated to her team.

“Getting there the first time was a lot of faith and belief that we could do something bigger than we had ever done before,” said Spillane. “Once we got that ball rolling back in 2010, their expectations became ‘this is how we train; this is what we do; this is how we take care of each other.’ It’s the exceptional caliber of kids we get here and their willingness to work really hard and us as a coaching staff working with them to help them create the training environment they want to have, the team culture they want to have.”

Moving forward, Spillane, with the help of her dedicated athletes and coaches, wants to raise the bar for Wellesley. For a coach who attributes so much of her success to those who have helped and inspired her along the way, Spillane aspires to learn more and strive for more every year, continuing the collaborative effort for another team title.

The Ernestine Bayer Award is among several awards that will be presented Saturday, December 3, at the USRowing Annual Awards Reception at the Springfield Convention Center in Springfield, Mass. For more information about the reception, visit www.usrowing.org

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