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Female athletes give perspective on new POWER program

Clemson Athletics, Provided

Clemson Athletics launched POWER: Women’s Leadership Academy on Feb. 2, 2022.

On Feb. 2, Clemson athletic director Graham Neff announced the commencement of the POWER Women’s Leadership Academy for female student-athletes at Clemson. As Women’s History Month begins, Clemson athletes are now speaking to the significance of the program.  

There are three main focuses of POWER which were specifically developed by women in administrative positions of the athletic department. These focuses are identity, professional presence and self-leadership and community. 

The program is a refined addition to the existing Women Empowering (WE) development program. Student-athletes must apply to POWER before selection into the year-long course, whereas WE is offered to all. 

I have seen first-hand the disparities female athletes face at all levels,” said Pepper Kolman, a senior D1 rower and inaugural member of POWER. “By honing its athletes’ confidence, empowerment and connectedness, POWER aids its members in transforming their personal leadership styles.” 

POWER offers the opportunity to understand not only shared experiences, but differences as well. 

“We all had a different journey before Clemson, we are all experiencing Clemson differently and we will all go on to do vastly different things with our lives,” said Kolman. “Coming together through POWER to understand one another’s perspectives, experiences and goals is a really unique and empowering thing to be a part of. 

The women of POWER have the opportunity to travel to Chicago this summer to participate in a summit which offers networking opportunities and leadership workshops.  

Each academic year will bring a new roster of qualified student-athletes to partake in the program and attend the summit.  

The goal of the summit is to provide leadership skills for the student-athletes in attendance and to teach them how they can pass those skills on to their teammates not involved in the program. 

The formation of POWER comes with Neff’s commitment to improving women’s programs and initiatives in his tenure. Former director of athletics Dan Radakovich allocated the funding required to launch the program, and it is now in Neff’s hands to further expand.  

Other measures included in Neff’s promise are the multi-million-dollar expansion plans for the lacrosse, gymnastics and rowing facilities set to be completed in late 2023. Neff is excited to see how the new facilities “[make] Clemson immediately competitive on the recruiting trail as well.” 

The inaugural POWER class features 15 young women involved in rowing, track and field, soccer, volleyball, softball, tennis and golf. With the commencement of the lacrosse and gymnastics teams in upcoming years, the hope is that these teams will start with a strong commitment to leadership and empowering female student-athletes.  

Meetings are held biweekly and may cover any range of activities.  

“We will go through exercises together where we are put in an uncomfortable situation because this is how we can grow,” sophomore women’s tennis player Makayla Mills said. “We also learn how to lead, hold the room with your presence and other important lessons.”  

Along with self-improvement, the meetings will provide a chance to discuss societal issues relating to women. 

“We will talk about any gender equity issues or any issues we feel passionate about that are important to us,” said Willis. “We discuss the issues and look for solutions to solve these issues. 

POWER, according to the press release, is believed to be one of the first such initiatives in the nation. 

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