The 9th Seat is the brainchild of Mary Whipple. Mary is dedicated to give coxswains and rowers the resources to make confident decisions on the water and more importantly the skills to execute those decisions.
Mary is giving back to the sport that has given her so much by providing a website that gives coxswains a direct link to her insights and her beliefs of what coxswains should and shouldn't do. Mary believes that her success has been achieved because she has seen herself as a teammate first and then a coxswain second.
Mary has been in the 9th seat for over half her life, 21 years. She held the 9th seat in the United States Women's eight for 12 years. Mary coxed the 2004 Olympic eight to a Silver medal finish ending a 20-year Olympic drought. She and her Athens teammates set the foundation for a successful campaign toward the 2008 Olympics where Mary steered the eight to two World Championship titles in 2006 and 2007 en route to a Gold medal performance at the 2008 Beijing Olympics. With their impressive win in Beijing, Mary and her teammates were awarded World Rowing 2008 Women's Crew of the Year.
After taking a year off after the 2008 Beijing Olympics to earn her M.ed. in Intercollegiate Athletic Leadership from the University of Washington she felt the need to compete again to help the United States women defend their Gold medal. With World Championship wins in 2010 and 2011, Mary and her teammates defended their Olympic Gold medal by winning the women's eight at the 2012 London Olympics.
The 9th Seat
What I'm most proud about my rowing career is not all the races I've won or world's best times I've set, it's the team's I've been honored to lead. The team cultures I've helped create. That is what makes me the proudest when I look back on my competitive career.
I believe that coxswains can have a huge impact on their team culture and their boat identity. This is why in 2008 after coming home from the Beijing Olympics, I created The 9th Seat. I wanted to create a resource for coxswains and ultimately a community for coxswains. It's a unique position that has some mystique to those who haven't had the opportunity to sit in the 9th seat. The way I see it, coxswains unify eight individuals into one. Anyone who has had that kind of opportunity knows the feeling that their decisions, words and leadership made a boat become faster. And that is the greatest feeling in the world!
After the London Olympics, I retired from the US National Team and headed west to get married to my partner in crime, Ryan Murray. We decided to settle down in Leavenworth, Wa. and quickly found a community of outdoor enthusiasts and genuinely good people who love to have potlucks! Ryan's passion involves all things snow. He owns Cascade Powder Cats and works for Points North Heli- Adventures. When I'm not traveling for coxswain clinics, summer camps and speaking engagements, I focus my time and energy into learning the sports that took a backseat when I was training for the Olympics. Skiing, mountain biking and surfing now inspire me to become that athlete that receives coaching and motivation. I joke that I wish that I had a coxswain for my new sports that I'm trying to master. A bonus that I didn't see coming by learning these new sports is that it gives me a new perspective of what it is like to want to be great at something. It gives me new insight of what it is like for my coxswain and rowing students who get frustrated by lack of experience. I can't wait to share how being a student of sport, no matter what sport, is a journey that is meant to be enjoyed no matter how bumpy it gets.