In her former professional life, the athlete gave her all on the tennis court. Now, she’s at the helm of the sport’s national governing body, an appointment that made her the first Black, the first former pro player and youngest person ever to serve in such capacity. Game, set, match! Our 2017 EBONY Women Up honoree Katrina Adams is a woman doing extraordinary work in the sports industry. She sat down with EBONY and provided sage advice on what it takes to be a leader in the industry, and how to always strive for success!
What obstacles have you had to overcome to achieve success?
I don’t look at my challenges as obstacles but learning platforms. As a former athlete and long time board member, I knew the business and the stakeholders involved in our business, however, I knew what I didn’t know. It was my duty to surround myself with those who were more knowledgeable in specific areas and provide me the comfort to lean on and learn from while leading a major organization.
Believing in myself has never been a problem but over-committing myself has. That has been my biggest challenge.
Just like success, people define and measure power differently. Some define it by dollar amount, while others measure it on a greater, more personal and internal level. What does Power mean to you?
Power to me means having the ability to control certain outcomes. I look at it through the eyes of an athlete of being strong, resilient, tenacious, having endurance and in it for the long haul to achieve one’s goal with the necessary tools and resources in place.
Given your platform and success, how do you demonstrate your responsibility to help inspire others? Be it through your real-life actions, social media, etc?
I have focused on using my platform to inspire a generation of people that they too can be successful. In my industry, there aren’t many that look like me at the top. Therefore, it is my responsibility to represent my organization, sport, gender and race in a positive manner. It is vital that I have a motivating impact on all, so they too can believe that they can ascend to the top. I use most social media platforms to spread my experiences because I am a firm believer that you have to see it to believe it.
I also speak to as may diverse groups and industries to talk about the healthy impact that tennis can have in one’s life. Be it physical, mental, or emotional. Tennis benefits everyone and it is my duty to spread the positive impact that it has on all.
How do you ensure that you stay “charged up,” in both the inspiration/motivation sense, as well as physically, in energy?
I absolutely love what I do. Tennis changed my life and I am so fortunate to still be in the industry and speak from experience in every level of our sport, from grassroots, to recreational to competitive, to high school and collegiate and professional. Every day I meet an interesting person that shares their experience in our sport that impacted them differently than the next person I encounter.
Knowing that I am making a difference and can leave an everlasting impact on someone’s life is truly rewarding. I wouldn’t change a thing on any given day.
Who are the women who inspire you?
First and foremost, my mother, Yvonne Adams. She has been my idol form day one. She taught me how to be independent, responsible and respectful. She motivated me to be the best that I can be and to always represent myself with the highest regard.
Professionally, Billie Jean King has been my ultimate mentor. She has inspired millions of women to be leaders, to be proud to be themselves and empowered all to believe that we are strong and fearless. She has taught me to believe in my ideas and go after them, empowering myself with knowledge, every step of the way.
Michelle Obama has also inspired me through her intellect, grace, strength and beauty. Her leadership is unmatched and her quest to inspire others is contagious.
Long after you retire, what would you like your legacy to be?
It’s important that I leave a legacy of inspiration and leadership. I want all to know that I reached back to pay it forward. That I was inclusive and engaging. That I inspired millions to be the best that they can be and know that they too can achieve their highest goals. My leadership skills are one of inclusivity, pulling in people of different genders, races, creed, ages and sexual orientations. If you don’t have a collective viewpoint of all backgrounds, you can never engage all to your consumers/participants. Tennis is diverse and inclusive and our business serves all on and off the court.
Furthermore, I hill be known to get a statue of Althea Gibson, the Jackie Robinson of women’s tennis, erected at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center, Home of the US Open. It was approved at our December 2017 board meeting. Now that is something that I will be proud of and remembered for.