NJTL 50 for 50:
Erin Maher | May 29, 2019
As the USTA Foundation celebrates the 50th anniversary of the National Junior Tennis & Learning network, USTA.com looks at 50 NJTL leaders and alumni who helped shape this incredible community dedicated to helping youth strive for academic and athletic excellence on the tennis court, in the classroom and in life.
In this installment, we catch up with Katrina Adams, current Immediate Past President of the USTA. Adams’ has made an impact in the tennis world, both on and off the court.
A native of Chicago, Adams learned to play tennis on the city’s public courts and went on to play at Northwestern University, where she won the NCAA doubles title with Diane Donnelly in 1987. Adams competed for 12 years on the WTA Tour, winning 20 career doubles titles and reaching the quarterfinals or better in doubles at all four Grand Slams.ADVERTISEMENT
After playing professionally, Adams stayed in the tennis world as the Executive Director at the Harlem Junior Tennis and Education Program NJTL. In 2015, she assumed the Chair and Presidency of the USTA and served an unprecedented two consecutive terms.
The Katrina Adams File
Name: Katrina Adams
NJTL Chapter: Youth Action (Chicago), Harlem Junior Tennis and Education Program (New York)
Year became active in NJTL: 1976
USTA.com: You first got involved with the NJTL when you were young, correct?
Katrina Adams: Yes, one of the programs I was in was a pilot in ’76. Inner-city program, small, maybe 15-20 kids in at that time. It was called Youth Action.
Started in a program like that, and now having the opportunity to lead one, for me was kind of like full circle.
USTA.com: How did you first get involved with Youth Action?
Katrina Adams: The previous summer I was in a program that was operated by the Boys’ Club, and one of the coaches took me under his wing. So the following summer, that was the program I ended up going to.
USTA.com: Can you tell us about the program?
Katrina Adams: It was an all-day camp. Probably not 9 am – 5 pm, more like 9 am to 4 pm. We had tennis, and then we had fitness, then we had lunch, then maybe fun games.
But, you know, it was a tennis program all day.
USTA.com: How would you say that Youth Action impacted your life?
Katrina Adam: Well, first of all, I made friends for life. I was the youngest in there by far; I think the closest age next to me was 16 or 14 maybe. When you’re that young, you’re basically just a kid with everyone else.
But as you evolve and get in older in life, those people actually become your friends. So I definitely made life-long friends.
But also it was a program that taught me discipline. I hated to run, and I hated any sort of fitness, but it was a part of it. But it made me stronger and a better player, and a smarter player on the court.
USTA.com: Obviously you went on to play professionally on the tour, retiring in 1999 and then assumed the role of Executive Director at the Harlem Junior Tennis and Education Program NJTL in 2005. What made you decide to take that role?
Katrina Adams: As I said earlier, it was like full circle.
For me, growing up in a similar environment, I had someone that took my hand and brought me forward. It was my opportunity to do the same, to reach back and bring someone forward.
I understood the impact that the sport could have on someone’s life.
The program that I grew up with wasn’t about underserved kids; it was just kids of color. But to be able to work in this program, here, and work with underserved kids, is an even greater opportunity.
USTA.com: What do you think your favorite aspect is about being a part of NJTL?
Katrina Adams: It’s about making a difference. As the model says, you’re “serving up dreams” and changing lives.
I’ve seen it first-hand. It’s allowed me to admire kids coming through adversity and succeeding, as well as working with parents, and the families as a whole.