Spotlight: Zoe Adkins
In honor of May being Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage month (AAPI), USTA Northern is uplifting voices from the AAPI communities who make an impact on our tennis community on and off the court.
Zoe Adkins is a powerhouse in both the Minnesota high school and USTA scene. The Maple Grove, Minn. native is one of the top tennis players in the state. She began playing tennis at the age of three and got competitive by age seven. “I learned how to keep track of the score by playing Mario Tennis, and I loved the sport ever since,” Zoe recalled.
Mario Tennis taught her well because from then on she was a force to be reckoned with. Zoe joined the Maple Grove varsity squad as a seventh-grader and received All-Conference honors in all six years of playing high school tennis. She represented the Crimson at the state tournament on five separate occasions, sure to be six if a tournament had been held in 2020.
Performance is one thing, but attitude is another. Most recently, USTA Northern awarded her with the Junior Sportsmanship Award at the 2022 Awards and Hall of Fame Banquet. The award is given to one boy and one girl from each age division who not only display the finest qualities of sportsmanship during tournament play, but who demonstrate exemplary conduct away from the court as well.
As a senior in high school preparing for graduation this Spring, Zoe has a lot to look forward to. She has committed to attend the University of Nebraska - Omaha on a full athletic scholarship, a school and tennis program that had her feeling right at home when she toured it for the first time. “I actually wasn’t thinking I was going to end up there,” she recalled, “The coach sent me an email near the end of my search, and I wasn’t sure it was going to be a fit. But when I started walking around, I really liked it. I loved the feel of the campus, the team, and the coach. I just felt very comfortable being in that environment; it felt like home.” The soon to be college freshman looks forward to the busy student-athlete schedule and having a supportive team by her side the moment she steps on campus.
Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Q&A with Zoe Adkins:
The AAPI region is extremely diverse. We want to shine a light on the individual cultures of the region. Can you share a bit about yourself and your cultural heritage?
My mom was born in South Korea and was adopted at three months old. From then on, she has always lived in Minnesota and does not have any cultural connection to Korea. My dad was Caucasian, which means I am only half Korean. I personally do not honor my Asian culture very much, as I have also lived in Minnesota my whole life. However, I do respect and value my ethnicity and love that I am not completely white.
How has your heritage shaped who you are today?
It has made me more aware of the issues regarding racism and discrimination, because it happens a lot to my mom. At tournaments, people that don’t know her assume she is the parent of every Asian player on the court. I would be with my friends who happen to be Asian, and people would come up and ask if we were sisters. There is a big issue with people thinking all Asians are related and that we look the same. Those in America who are completely white are privileged in that they will never experience injustice, racism, and discrimination. They’ll never understand what it’s like to be on the receiving end of discrimination.
What does it mean to you to represent the AAPI community as a young female tennis player?
It’s amazing to be representing the community as a young female player. I always want to show that even if we aren’t built the same as males, we are still just as strong and competitive. We are athletes, and it’s important we are recognized for the effort we put in and the talent we have, regardless of our gender.
What do you hope for the future of Asian American tennis players, coaches, and leaders?
I hope there will be more Asian American coaches, leaders, and players in our section to represent us as athletes, and to continue to make tennis more diverse. It’s important for everyone to be treated equally, and to look at the passion, effort, and hard work of a player; never the color of their skin. We’re here to coach/play tennis, that’s it.
What is your favorite tennis memory?
My favorite memory was 14s Zonals. My team was so much fun and even though we didn’t do very well, it was a very memorable experience. We would hang out every night at the hotel, have team dinners, and cheer each other on regardless of how we were doing. It was one of the first events for us at that age that really brought us together as a section.
Just for fun: If you could play tennis at any stadium in the world, where would you play?
I have to choose Wimbledon Centre Court. I really like grass courts, and the tournament itself is classy and respectable. I have always wanted to spend time in London as well because of the food and environment as a whole.