Diversity in 2020
Dr. Katrina Adams
Dr. Katrina Adams, Immediate Past Chairperson, President, and Chief Executive Officer, United States Tennis Association

STUART S. JANNEY: With that as a background, we are now going to hear from Katrina Adams, the immediate past president of the United States Tennis Association (USTA) and the vice president of the prestigious International Tennis Federation, which is the governing body of world tennis, wheelchair tennis, and beach tennis.

Katrina was the first African-American to lead the USTA, the first two-term chairman and president, and the first former player to hold that honor.

In her college days she led the Northwestern University tennis team to a Big 10 championship in 1986, and won a NCAA Doubles Championship with teammate Diane Donnelly the following year.

We are honored to have her with us today as she shares some of her perspectives on diversity in the year 2020.

KATRINA ADAMS: Good morning, everyone. Thank you so much for having me this morning, Stuart. I really appreciate the opportunity to address all.

I would really like to focus on diversity of thought. Diversity of thought is so important for businesses to become successful or even more successful. And what that means is that being a little more open-minded as to who is seated at the table making decisions. Whether it's based on race, gender, ethnicity, or socioeconomic backgrounds. This is a way to be more inclusive to understand what the needs are of your constituents and future clients of your industry.

As a former president, chairman, and CEO of the USTA, I really focused on making sure that tennis looked like America. That meant that we had a percentage of every background involved in our sport that was equal to America.

While we fell short, we are still striving to reach that. One of the first initiatives that I implemented was the Hispanic Initiative. The Hispanic Initiative was extremely important to me, because I saw the growth, or continue to see the growth in African-Americans in tennis. As we look at the tennis tournaments and our champions, you see a lot more people who look like me that are at the top of the game or that are playing professional tennis.

Unfortunately for Hispanic and Latin Americans, we don't have a large number of those players competing at the top, or even in our game. So it was very important that we went out and focused on these communities. We created toolkits to go out into the communities, to the local programs, to the schools, to the churches, et cetera, to make sure that they had some guidelines to embrace and go out and reach these communities to get them engaged.

And we were very successful in raising our numbers. With our African-Americans in particular, we have our National Junior Tennis and Learning Network Programs that are spread throughout the country, serving 300,000 students or more, providing them tennis and education.

I'm not sure what you have in horse racing to really be able to go out and teach others how to be involved in the sport, particularly from an administrative perspective, but it is very important that you are trying to bring more people of color to the table to have more diversity of thought.

This way, you can be a little more creative. When you have the same mindset sitting around the table talking about the same things, you can get lost in what truly is important in making sure that you are addressing the challenges that you and other sports are having right now.

Particularly in this climate in 2020 it is even more evident and important that we become a little more diverse in how we approach our businesses. Why? Because there are a lot of diverse dollars that are out there that can make your sport that much more successful by perhaps marketing to them.

And when I say marketing to them, when I open up some of the books or magazines in regards to horse racing, very seldom see anyone that looks like me. So I'm saying to myself, ‘This is not a sport for me.’ Maybe that's intentional, but hopefully it's not. Maybe it's just something that has been overlooked.

But I think going forward we all are learning that we need to be a little more inclusive in our marketing materials, the discussions that we're having, and the messages that we're sending, so that when I pick up a magazine I see myself in your sport.

Now, I love the Kentucky Derby; I love Saratoga Springs; the Belmont is just up the road from me here in New York.

Although I've not attended a horse race or a race, I have watched them on television. I have put some wages down from time to time. I was actually invited to go to the Kentucky Derby for many years, and was planning on going this year as it actually fit my schedule, but I was unable to attend.

Hopefully I'll be able to see many of you at that event going forward. But I ask each of you, what is it that you really want to accomplish? What are the struggles that you're having within your own businesses, within your own teams?

Look around the table and ask, ‘Are we diverse? Do we have diversity of thought at the table? Do we have a woman or women that are going to bring a different perspective?’ Remember, there are a lot of women that are into horse racing that ride horses and love the sport just as much as you do.

How are you attracting them to your sport? How are you bringing their money to the sport so that they can get their kids into the sport? Those are the questions that you need to ask.

And when you look around the table and ask yourselves, ‘Are we diverse as far as race or ethnicity?’ And if you're not, try to figure out how you can be a little more inclusive.

Your sport and all sports are really struggling in this environment in these industries today in trying to figure out how we can get better, how we can grow, and how we can look like America.

Tennis wanted to look like America, so we make sure that our administration levels, our chief officers, are all starting to have better opportunities to make sure that we are at least interviewing the proper number of people or diverse number of people to be engaged and hopefully be a part of our organization.

But we've done a great job over the last decade or so, and we will continue to do that and be better until we reach our goals of having our sport look like America.

Maybe that's something that you all want to do. So I thank you for your time and I ask you to ask yourselves these questions. I have a book coming out called Own the Arena: Making a Difference and being Successful as the Only One. In that book, I talk about owning your identity, owning your network, owning the table.

You need to own your brand, own your marketing, own your identity. What are you doing to make it different and make to look like America?

Thank you.

STUART S. JANNEY: Thank you very much, Katrina. You've given all of us a lot to think about. I think it should be pretty clear to anyone watching this conference that our industry, like so many others, needs to do more in the area of cultural diversity.

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