Auburn alumna, Olympic athlete Reita Clanton to give keynote for Women's Leadership Conference March 13

Published: March 12, 2015
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AUBURN UNIVERSITY – The Auburn University Women's Resource Center will host the ninth annual Women's Leadership Conference Friday, March 13, in Ballroom A at The Hotel at Auburn University and Dixon Conference Center, highlighted by a keynote address from Reita Clanton -- Auburn alumna, Olympic athlete and coach and Alabama Sports Hall of Fame inductee.

The event is planned and executed by students, with guidance from the Women's Resource Center, to promote the development of leadership skills, provide information about important issues affecting women's lives and promote women's active involvement in their communities and beyond.

A panel discussion in the morning, "The Starting Line-Up: Young Women Leaders Program," will provide a look at the "game-changing" lessons learned in the after-school program by students at Auburn Junior High School. The Young Women Leaders Program pairs girls from Auburn Junior High with college women from Auburn University.

The Women's Leadership Conference will offer workshops, speakers and panel discussions throughout the morning, followed by a luncheon honoring Women of Distinction Leadership Award winners: five exemplary undergraduate, graduate, staff, faculty and alumna women.

Clanton will give the keynote address at 1 p.m. following the luncheon. Her life and career represent the theme of this year's conference, "Women as Game Changers."

Clanton was born in LaFayette, Alabama, and moved with her family to Opelika at the age of 7 at a time when there were no organized sports for young girls. In Opelika, there were lots of children to play with and a ball game could be organized any time. She said this is where the athlete in her began to find its way.

The best part of the house in Opelika, according to Clanton, was a sweet gum tree in the back yard. She said she loved how everything looked so different and how she could look so far through the branches in the top of that tree. It was a quiet place to daydream, and Clanton said what she dreamed about was playing sports. Every year the tree grew and she grew and although the physical challenges got tougher, the view from the sweet gum tree got more expansive – as did her dreams.

Clanton arrived at Auburn in the 1970s in the pre-NCAA years in women's sports after attending junior college and had the opportunity to begin playing collegiate athletics. "I always thought I was an athlete," Clanton said, "but never had any opportunity until I came to Auburn on the cusp of Title IX, which really kind of moved things along for women." At Auburn, Clanton was a three-sport star, excelling at softball, basketball and volleyball.

Clanton's career in sports spans more than three decades. She participated in the 1984 Olympics as a member of the first U.S. women's handball team and was an assistant coach for the U.S. handball team in the 1996 Olympics. After the 1984 Olympic Games, a reporter asked her how a small town girl from Alabama with little formal training in sports made it to the Olympic Games in a sport she'd never heard of until she was 22 years old. Without hesitation she replied," Well, I've been training for it all my life."

She is a member of the Tiger Trail of Auburn and in 2010 was only the 12th woman to be inducted into the Alabama Sports Hall of Fame. In 1996, she co-authored the only book on Team Handball written by an American author.

In addition to being an athlete and coach, Clanton is an author, teacher and professional speaker. She currently lives in Auburn.