Anita Oplotnik, inducted into the Missouri Sports Hall for Fame recently for her career achievements in high school and college basketball, never thought about being enshrined in a hall of fame when she began the game.
She just worked hard, helping lead her teams at Lincoln High in Missouri to a combined record of 75-10, including an 11-0 record her freshman year, and becoming the first Lincoln girls player to score more than 1,000 points in a career.
She went on to letter for four years at Missouri Southern where she was a two-time NAIA All-American selection, the Central States Intercollegiate Conference player of the year in 1987 and a three-time first team all-conference selection. She still holds 10 of the 11 records she set over 32 years ago while playing at Missouri Southern including career points (1,842), free throws made in a game (17) free throws in a career (476), free throw percentage (100%) and career fouls.
All those on the court accomplishments were recognized when Anita was selected for induction into the Missouri Sports Hall of Fame. And while her playing days are long over, Anita relies on a lot of what she learned as a player working as a Morgan Stanley Financial Advisor and branch manager in Springfield.
“My teammates and I were fortunate to have such good coaches and mentors,” said Anita. “Our coaches set high expectations for all of us. We had talent and liked to win, but they instilled great work habits and fierce competitiveness in us all that we carried into our adult lives.”
Hard practices never bothered her; not even the three-a-day practices in college, running stairs along with the football team on those 100-degree Missouri August days, well in advance of their first game at the end of November.
“I knew if we worked really hard and dedicated ourselves to one goal, we could win. Success would follow,” she said. “I believe if you keep your head down and work hard at doing the right things, good outcome and success will follow.”
A new way to compete
Success in athletics, according to Anita, is commensurate with drive, determination, teamwork and goal setting. “You can use those skills to your advantage in any career.” she said. And while Anita thought she might work as a coach someday, sharing her knowledge of basketball and her love for the game with another generation of athletes, she developed a new interest with her first job out of college, working in a bank.
“I learned all about banking and lending, and served in the trust department, too,” she said. “I really was interested in learning all aspects of the financial markets from many different perspectives.”
After a few years, she was offered an opportunity to join Smith Barney, a predecessor firm of Morgan Stanley as a Financial Advisor. Today, she serves as a kind of combination player-coach at her office. In addition to providing wealth management advice to her own team’s clients, she manages the local Morgan Stanley office in Springfield, MO. As Branch Manager, she focuses on developing cohesive teams, providing consistent leadership, and working to retain and recruit Financial Advisors for the branch.
“A lot of my friends went into coaching and teaching,” Anita said. “At first, I thought if I didn't like the business world, then I could pursue education. But I’ve developed a new passion here. I enjoy coming to work every day to help and people in their families with the complexities of their financial life. We help them understand their investments and put a game plan in place for their retirement. It removes at least one element of stress from their lives, helping them to achieve their goals.
“I’ve come to see that most everything is a combination of individual and team efforts,” she said. “Just like in sports, you can’t do it all by yourself.”
Of her Hall of Fame induction, Anita had a similar perspective: “individual honors and awards are really nice, but it's a lot more fun to win as a team.”
Anita carries that message with her in her volunteer work with the Morgan Stanley Complex Women's Council, helping women to find opportunities and achieve success in their graduate and professional education. She also works to develop and mentor trainees and women in her office complex.
Outside of work, Anita serves on the Board of Governors of Missouri Southern State University, and has been involved with her local school board for the past nine years. She feels that giving time to the community around you is vital to producing a strong community, and looks forward to having more time to give back when her twins head off to college soon.
“It can be hard to find the time, so I just make it happen. You always have to find that balance of having a career along with being a mom and a wife and doing anything else you feel important to your life.”