Own the Arena

On this Shapers of Possibility - a Taylor Podcast episode we are joined today by a very special guest, former President and CEO of the United States Tennis Association, champion tennis player, sports commentator and now author, Katrina Adams. She discusses her new book ‘Own the Arena’ and delves into the contentious US Open 2018 Women’s Finals between Naomi Osaka and Serena Williams.

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Narrator  (00:00): Hey you, welcome to Shapers of Possibility - a Taylor Podcast, where we discuss and dissect the integrated worlds of marketing, innovation, pop culture, sports, and all of the possibilities in between.

We’re creating a unique space - for purpose, insightful debate, and growth. Join us.

Nathalie Wilson (00:25): Hello and welcome to our Shapers of Possibility - a Taylor Podcast. We are joined today by a very special guest. She is a former president and CEO of the United States Tennis Association, the first black woman and youngest person to ever hold a position, a champion tennis player, a sports commentator, and now author, Katrina Adams. As an avid tennis fan and tennis player, I'm so excited to be speaking with you. So thank you so much for joining us,

Katrina Adams (00:52): For having me. It's exciting.

Nathalie Wilson (00:54): So congratulations on publishing your first book, ‘Own The Arena’. Can you tell us what your book is about and what inspired you to write it?

Katrina Adams (01:03): Well, it's Own The Arena, getting ahead, making a difference and succeeding as the only one. And so it really focuses on some of the successes that I've had as either the only woman in the room, the only black person in the room, only person of color in a room, in the business world as well as even during my playing career, different situations as a former professional tennis player where I found myself as the only one. So I'm really excited to share that story with you.

Nathalie Wilson (01:37): Yeah, I'm excited to hear that story. So you started a book with the contentious US Open, 2018 Women's Finals between Naomi Osaka and Serena Williams. For listeners who don't know, the match generated a lot of controversy due to a series of altercations between Serena and the Chair Umpire, Carlos Ramos. Katrina, this was your last year as president of the USTA. What was your response to that?

Katrina Adams (02:03): Yeah, no, it was important for me to clear the air, if you will. There was so much speculation and assumptions around that event, what occurred on the court, what happened on the ceremony, died afterwards with my speech, words that were misconstrued, et cetera. So I just thought it was very important for me to be able to clear the air, if you will, and give my point of view as to what happened and how I see it and how I was received and the controversy that came behind it. So hopefully people can walk away after reading it and go, oh, okay. Well, yeah. Now I know

Nathalie Wilson (02:47): That's really interesting. It's good that the book gives you the opportunity to do so. When you retired from your career as a tennis player, you had to transition your life from the court to off the court. How have you done so?

Katrina Adams  (02:59): I played on the tour for 12 years, and while I was playing I did a lot of other things. I represented the players on our WTA Players Association board, which then turned into the WTA tour board and did a little commentating here and a little commentating there. But when I retired from the tour, I was actually sought after by the USTA to become a national coach. And so I did that. I focused on the southern region, the southeast region of the country moved to Atlanta, essentially located in the region that I was supporting. I did that for about four years and really kind of learned how to manage time better on a business side, managing budgets, things of that nature. But I had no, really had no skills to do before that and on a business level. And I took some time off and really focused on what I want to do next.

Katrina Adams (04:00): I went into commentating. I became a full-time commentator with the tennis channel when they started in 2003, and moved forward. Fast forward, I got involved in the Harlem Junior Tennis and Education Program here in Harlem, New York and where I've been for 15 years, and that's where I really started to cultivate my business acumen and understanding what it meant to be a boss, a leader with a staff, a budget, families that we supported, et cetera. And things just kind of grew from there. So it was always opportunities that presented themselves and I was able to grab a hold of them.

Nathalie Wilson (04:41): Oh, that's great to hear. So with that being said, what skills have you taken from the court to the corporate world?

Katrina Adams (04:49): I love the sport of tennis. Tennis really teaches you a lot about yourself. It's an individual sport, even though you work with a team of people, whether it's a coach, whether it's your partner or opponent on the other side of the net, but it really teaches you how to build your self-confidence, your self-esteem, how to be disciplined, how to manage time, how to deal with adversity. All these different things are taught. These are lessons that are taught through our sport, and because of that, they're also lessons that we need in everyday life and particularly in a business setting. And so those are some of the skill sets that I've been able to bring to the table, bring to the room in a business sense, particularly with my confidence. I walk into a room and my people say that my confidence just exudes. They can feel that aura when I walk into a room.

Katrina Adams (05:44): And that's purposeful because I really never try to walk into a room kind of sheepishly, sheepishly looking around, or I do like to stand in the background to kind of observe before I thrust myself in the center of the room. But within moments, I'm going to be in the center of the room and that's because I've already navigated. I've seen who's in the room, hopefully I've done my homework to know who's going to be there before I get there and maybe try to streamline and really put myself in their presence, introducing myself, et cetera. So that's a lot that I've got from tennis. I was the serve and volley, a net rusher. So kind of a really aggressive approach, if you will, as a tennis player, which kind of translates into my everyday life.

Nathalie Wilson (06:32): I mean, I kind of want to dig a little deeper into that because remember we had a conversation a few weeks ago, and you mentioned how tennis players have this, they think a little differently than most people. They have this character and stuff that they've gotten from the court, and they can also translate to that corporate life. So could you elaborate more on that?

Katrina Adams (06:56): Yeah you know part of it is that we are, we're repetition. We're training ourselves to be repetitive. Everything is repetitive. We go out and train, we hit a thousand balls or however many number balls you're hitting on any different shot. And it's the same thing that you kind of bring into your business life, right, into the corporate world. Everything's repetitive. You, you're reviewing your documents, you're reviewing your presentation, you're reviewing, reviewing, reviewing, to get better. And that's what we're doing in tennis. Tennis also teaches you how to win and how to lose, more how to lose than to win, because learn more from your losses than you do your wins when you're winning, your chest is out, you're walking tall and you think nothing can harm you. But when you lose, then you're like, gosh, you, you're reviewing again, right? You're reassessing, what could I have done differently?

Katrina Adams (07:48): How could I get better? How would I approach this going forward? Same thing in a business sense. If you don't get a project of something that you've been working on and you didn't get rewarded with the deal, gosh, what didn't we do right? Or not so much right, what can we do differently? How can we get better? And so tennis players we're used to losses. Unless you're like Roger Federer or Serena Williams, the top of the world where your losses are less than your wins, the majority of the players are either 50-50 or more losses and wins when it really comes down to it. And so those are the things that have translated from tennis into my business acumen.

Nathalie Wilson (08:33): Got it. You also talk about good sportsmanship in your book. So again, how does that translate to the workplace?

Katrina Adams (08:42): Tennis is a sport that's built on sportsmanship. It's on a handshake. It's calling your own lines being fair along the way. And it's the same thing. If I'm known to be a cheater or a cheat on the tennis court calling balls out that are in, then I'm probably going to navigate my way through life as a cheat and cutting corners and just ahead, because winning is more important than the learning process. And so that's why I think sports like tennis and golf and these individual sportswear, it's really up to you to be honest to call your bad shots and your mistakes own up to your mistakes. That will translate over into how we really operate on a day-to-day basis in the real world, if you will, and work. And so I think it's so important that we are kind to ourselves, but we're kind to our opponents on the court, but also we're kind to our colleagues that we work with and then those opponents that we are perhaps trying to compete against in a big deal. And yeah, we're going to be a little harsh and a little aggressive along the way, but at the end of the day, we're all human and we deserve to be treated fairly and with respect.

Nathalie Wilson (10:05): Oh yeah, of course. Exactly. So if you had one piece of advice to give to a tennis player who's considering closing out their career on the court, what would it be?

Katrina Adams (10:17): Well, first of all, if they're a professional tennis player, congratulations to them because they've put a lot of years, a lot of days, a lot of hours, minutes and seconds into trying to be the best at their craft. And there's always going to be an end. Whether it's age, whether it's just ability, your body's breaking down, what have you. So what's important, the question is what is it that you love to do? What's important to you? What skill sets do you have? What is the training that you have in those areas? And then make sure that you're communicating. You want to be networking before your career's over. It's all about networking with people that you meet along the way. We, as players, have been fortunate to meet CEOs from all over the world in all industries. And how do you see yourself fitting in perhaps one of their companies?

Katrina Adams (11:15): And yeah, maybe you're going to be starting down at the bottom and working your way up, but if it's something that you're really intrigued by, go after it. It's about communicating. It's about reaching out along the way. It's about saying thank you when you meet someone, sending them a little thank you note. Nowadays it's emails, but if you can send a handwritten note, that goes a long way for someone that you just met. It says wow I really enjoy meeting you, enjoyed our conversation, i'm very interested in your industry. I'd love to learn more about it because I think it's something that I'd like to pursue once I retire. So networking, perhaps finding a mentor along the way that's in the business, in an industry that you're interested in going in that can start to give you some tips and then do a lot of research and find that space that's right for you.

Nathalie Wilson (12:09): Thank you for that advice. Katrina, any final words you'd like to add?

Katrina Adams (12:13): No, I think it's important. First of all, go out and buy my book if you haven't bought it already. ‘Own the Arena’. It went on sale on the 23rd. So I think it's really important that everyone has the ability to own their identity, own their voice, which is owning their worth. These are all the things that I talk about in the book so that you can own your arena. Your arena is what you make of it can be your living room, it can be in your office, it can be a broader space, but being confident in yourself is what's most important. And not everybody exudes that confidence outwardly. A lot of it is inward. We have our introverts. It doesn't mean that they're not confident. They just may not exude it as much as I or someone else would, with a more outgoing personality. But if you can just take the time to reach out to a colleague, to a friend in your network in your village, that can help you, help propel you to that next level. And you may be at the level that you want. Not everybody is meant to be in a C-suite, you know, may be at the level that you want, but be the best at that level that you can be, and make sure you're reaching back to bring others along because that's truly making a difference in your life personally, but also in someone else's life. So buy the book, read the book, and hopefully you'll learn a few things from it.

Nathalie Wilson (13:49): Wow, that's a great piece of advice. It's basically a lot of things that my parents have told me my whole life is, no matter what you do, just make sure you try your best and be the best at what you're doing. So thank you. Yeah, thank you so much for joining us today. It was a pleasure having you. ‘Own The Arena’ is out now. You can get your copy at harperscollins.com, Amazon, Google Play, and Barnes or Nobles, and basically anywhere you can find a book. So thank you so much for joining us today. It was really a great pleasure.

Katrina Adams (14:21): Thank you for having me. Really.

Narrator (14:23): Well, that wraps up this episode of Shapers of Possibility—a Taylor Podcast. To learn more about what we do at Taylor, you can find us at TaylorStrategy.com.

Looking for more episodes of the podcast? Find us wherever you stream stuff—we’re on iTunes and other major streaming platforms. And be sure to follow us on Instagram and Twitter: at Taylor Strategy. Thanks for stopping by and tuning in. Peace!

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