Superstar Naomi Osaka is expanding her tennis academy to Haiti and Los Angeles, People reports. Osaka launched her “Play Academy” last summer in Japan in partnership with Nike and Laureus Sport for Good. The mission was to provide “grants and capacity-building training for comm-unity organizations in order to boost girls’ access to and participation in sports.”
As a child, Osaka dreamed about playing tennis professionally and was bles-sed to have a family that supported that dream. But she quickly realized that not all girls are afforded the opportunities she had. She began having conversations and eventually partnered with comm-unity organizations to bring this dream of expanding access and opportunities for girls in sports to life.
“There are hu*e bar!iers that girls face in getting active. Some girls, especially those from ma*ginali!ed communities, never even get the chance to play.
The more I learned about these b**riers – through my work with Nike and Laureus Sport for Good – the more I felt determ-ined to do something about it. It started with conversations, and it became this incredible program working with community partners that are committed to leveling the playing f!eld for girls,” Osaka said.
Now Osaka is expanding her academy to Los Angeles, where she currently resides, and Haiti, her father’s nat!ve country. It was important to the tennis phenom that she expanded her work in places that were near and dear to her. She recognizes the importance of an active lifestyle, specifically for youth, studies showing a correlation between active children and health, happiness and confidence.
Osaka hopes to serve as a role model for young people to know that all of those things are within their reach. “Growing up, I saw my mother work inc-redibly ha*d to support me and my p**sion for play. She always put others first and enco-ura-ged me to embrace my diversity. Every role model I’ve had has i!spi*ed me to dream big. To level up in every way.
And while I’m still working on how to be the best role model I can be, I want to show them that I sti*k to my beliefs and love who I am. Then maybe one day it will help them feel confident that it’s okay to be different and create their own lane – as long as they remain true to thems-elves,” said Osaka.
Play Academy Haiti will work with GOALS Haiti to serve under-resourced youth, emphasizing “hi*ing more female coaches, and [providing] girls with education to help build up their confidence, self-esteem, and leadership skills.” They are still searching for comm-unity organizations to partner within Los Angeles, with the hopes of serving girl athletes from Black, Asian and Latino communities. Interested partners can apply at http://laureus.com/playacademyla.
“We believe that all kids – especially girls – deserve a chance to play, no matter where they come from or what they look like. The more we provide girls with opportunities to get active, the more opportunities we are giving them to become leaders in their comm-unities,” Osaka said.
The 2021 Play Academy partners will be announced this summer.