October 2023 – When tennis champion Zoya Hasan describes her sport as one that “anybody of any age can play,” you can believe her. The Edina High School junior is speaking from personal experience.
Born into and inspired by a family of tennis lovers, Hasan picked up her first racket at the tender age of 5. By age 8, she was competing in regional USTA tournaments. Throughout her middle school years, Hasan honed her skills through an ambitious mix of training camps and appearances on national circuits.
This commitment paid dividends in eighth grade when the Edina Varsity Girls Tennis team tapped Hasan for a spot on their elite roster – a rare honor for a player who has not even entered high school. During her debut season, the Hornets won sectionals (the highest level of competition held that year, due to the pandemic).
Her track record continues to be impressive. “I was honored to be named captain for my junior year, and am looking forward to the [fall season],” she said.
At the varsity level, captains are not just talented or experienced players. They are also a de facto ambassador for their team and sport. In that regard, Hasan is probably among the most qualified that Edina Varsity Girls Tennis has ever seen. That is because on top of her burgeoning athletic career, Hasan is also already a tennis coach in her own right.
“I started teaching lessons to the children of a family friend back in the summer of 2021,” she recalled. Word of mouth led to a few more clients that first season, and even more the following summer.
It did not take Hasan long to realize that she had come full circle from a decade prior. “I am so grateful to be able to teach young kids about the game … and to learn to love tennis like I do.” As Hasan sees it, tennis is not just about having fun or staying physically active – though both are absolutely part of the equation. “Tennis also teaches lifelong lessons, such as sportsmanship and perseverance.”
As a way to formalize and expand her efforts, Hasan started her own small business: Hasan Tennis LLC. “My mission with this is to make tennis a fun and safe space for young, and mostly female, athletes,” she explained.
Private and small group lessons are a promising means to that end, as Hasan can attest. Unfortunately, though, many aspiring young athletes are unable to afford that type of personalized, extracurricular attention. This has contributed to a persistent equity gap within the sport.
Edina Give and Go, a nonprofit partner of Edina Public Schools, reports that approximately 20 percent of the district’s students live in economically disadvantaged households. Give and Go exists to reduce financial barriers to full participation in academic and athletic programs.
“I contacted Give and Go to see if there was a way that I could connect with those most in-need kids using Hasan Tennis,” Hasan shared. This resulted in a camp geared toward kids ages 5-10. She designed a schedule filled with demonstrations, drills and matches – and secured her participants’ equipment free of charge courtesy of USTA Northern. Her efforts were well received, and Hasan plans on coordinating more such clinics in the future.
In June 2023, Edina Mayor James Hovland awarded Zoya Hasan with the Mayor’s Youth Service Commendation. While her give-back attitude towards tennis certainly informed her selection for this high honor, Hasan’s community service mentality extends beyond the sports sphere as well.
Hasan’s parents are both eye doctors, which has given Zoya and her brother Abid unique insights into disparities in eyecare access – not just abroad, but here in our own backyard as well. Eager to make a difference, the siblings established a nonprofit called Vision for All.
Vision for All makes good on its mission by organizing eyecare clinics and appointment voucher programs, both done in collaboration with key community partners like Edina Public Schools. In addition, the Hasans collect old glasses for lens refitting and donation through an international charity focused on optometric services in the developing world. “We’ve already donated over 1,000 frames in total,” Hasan noted.
Abid recently graduated and is attending college out of state, leaving Zoya in sole charge of Vision for All.
She is also at the helm of a second charitable initiative – this one kickstarted by the Hasan siblings more than five years ago.
“My brother and I established Kits for Kids MN as a way to provide some comfort to children undergoing surgery [in and around] Edina,” Hasan explained. “We collect donated items such as coloring books, crayons, Play-Doh and stickers.” For distribution, Abid and Zoya forged relationships with the Edina Surgery Center, Ridges Surgery Center in Burnsville and Children’s Minnesota in Minneapolis and St. Paul.
“Edina Surgery Center even recently did a donation drive for Kits for Kids MN,” Hasan shared, helping to push the program’s total well past 2,000 gifted kits.
Some residents encounter Zoya Hasan through Hasan Tennis LLC, others through Vision for All, and still others through her work with Kits for Kids MN. All will agree that her vision, personal drive and commitment to the community make her a true Hometown Hero.