Include-All: Katrina Campbell
David N. Dinkins—the first Black mayor of New York—once said that his “greatest interest and concern” as a member of the USTA National Board was that “people playing tennis look like this country.” Every day, USTA Eastern strives to operate under that governing principle; it is the section’s mission to ensure that anyone who wants to pick up a racquet has the opportunity to do so. There is a place on court for everyone; the sport should always reflect the diversity of all our many dynamic, vibrant communities.
Of course, an organization whose mission is to serve all should be composed of individuals who also “look like this country”. With that in mind, USTA Eastern has taken great strides toward diversifying its staff and board over the last few years so that those from all walks of life—with varying perspectives, experiences and approaches—can have a seat at the table. In our new feature series, we aim to shine a spotlight on some of those many different voices. This month we speak to Katrina Campbell, a member-at-large on USTA Eastern’s Board of Directors who currently chairs the section’s Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Committee. Campbell—who also serves as the Chief Ethics and Compliance Officer for humanitarian aid organization Relief International—talks to us about finding a community in the sport and her pride in getting the “recreational player” a seat at the table.
When did you first pick up a racquet? What’s your tennis origin story?
CAMPBELL: I took tennis in a physical education class in college, but never really played regularly until 2006, when I moved to New Jersey from Virginia. I was getting divorced and looking for something to do where I could build my own community. There were courts nearby my home in South Orange, and I met someone who asked if I wanted to play. Whenever we showed up at the courts, all kinds of people would hit with us or chat with us. Then this group that I started playing with learned about a USTA league that was in Plainfield, and they said, “Oh, we should join!” I was terrified. [Laughs]. But they convinced me to do it, and I’ve been playing ever since.
What do you love about the sport that has kept you playing all these years?
CAMPBELL: I love connecting with people from communities that I might not otherwise just run into. I play regularly with people who are in their 70s, and I play with a young lady who's 19. I play with people who are white, Black, Indian American, Chinese, Russian. Literally, that’s my team. It’s people from all kinds of backgrounds, it’s immigrants, it’s people who've grown up here in New Jersey and New York. It is important to put yourself out there if you really want to meet different people, and tennis gives you an easy way to put yourself out there and do so while having fun.
You joined the USTA Eastern Board of Directors in 2021. What interested you about applying to serve in that capacity?
CAMPBELL: I’m a USTA member and I saw the email that said the section was looking for board members. It’s funny because I really just decided to apply on a whim. “Why not? It’ll be interesting…they probably won’t call me anyway.” Well, they did. [Laughs]. I was like, “Oh my gosh, what did I get myself into?” [But] I’m a lawyer by trade and an ethics and compliance person. Every organization that has a board needs to be mindful of issues of ethics, compliance, culture, conflicts of interest. For me, I thought it would be really great to offer my skills to an organization that [promotes] something I think is really good for our society.
Are there any projects you’ve worked on during your tenure in the role that make you particularly proud?
CAMPBELL: To me, a key part of being a board member is that you don’t just sit there and vote. You engage and you challenge and you ask questions so that you can better understand in an effort to fully promote this sport. I'm proud to be the person in the room who is willing to ask the question that no one else is asking. But I’m also really proud that I’m a 50-year-old professional who [has been] a 3.0 player for 13 years. I represent the people like me who want to have fun and don't want to take it too seriously, but want to compete. I'm really happy to be the person at the table who reflects all those playing tennis for the fun of it. Most of us are not professional players and are not ever going to be professional. Yet it's still transformative for us.
You’ve recently begun chairing Eastern’s Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Committee. What are your goals for the organization in that regard over the next few years?
CAMPBELL: What I'd like to see is the incorporation of diversity into every aspect of what we do. By that I mean, if we’re thinking about a supplier, we’re automatically sourcing with women-owned businesses, businesses owned by people of color or immigrants or differently-abled people. When we’re thinking about nominating people for awards, are we automatically ensuring that award recipients reflect the diversity of our section? Are we reaching out to wheelchair tennis groups and training coaches in adaptive tennis techniques? Is this all just part of what we do? But again, it’s about speaking up in meetings and asking those questions. And my goal is to make sure that we’re all asking those questions.
USTA Eastern has made a concerted effort to diversify its board over the last couple of years. What has your experience been like working alongside such a varied group of leaders?
CAMPBELL: It's amazing. What I said about making diversity part of everything we do, I've experienced with this board. When you have a diverse board, it's so much easier to achieve your goals because people are already thinking differently. One way I’ll put it is when I do raise an issue that’s related to inclusion, there is an acceptance of that type of question. In some contexts, that could be met with hostility or indifference. You just wouldn’t get that at USTA Eastern. The people in the room are already thinking differently from each other, and so it's going to automatically lead to richer and more robust activities.