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‘We Believe That All Kids—Especially Girls—Deserve a Chance to Play’: Naomi Osaka Sets Her Sights on Haiti and Los Angeles for Sports Academy

This year, tennis star Naomi Osaka pledged to be known for more than just her athletic abilities and invest in women of tomorrow. Already a part-owner of a Nation Women’s Soccer League club, the 23-year-old recently announced that she’s giving others an opportunity to learn about the sport.

Osaka launched Play Academy with Nike and Laureus Sport for Good last summer, which provided grants and capacity-building training for community organizations in order to increase girls’ access to and participation in the sport. Play Academy will now be expanding its services to those interested in Los Angeles, California and Haiti. Both locations are near and dear to Osaka, who currently calls Los Angeles home, and her father is from Haiti.

MADRID, SPAIN – MAY 02: Naomi Osaka of Japan celebrates match point during the second round match between Karolina Muchova of Czech and Naomi Osaka of Japan on day 4 of the Mutua Madrid Open at La Caja Magica on May 02, 2021 in Madrid, Spain. (Photo by Gonzalo Arroyo Moreno/Getty Images)

While talking to People about the program, Osaka said, “We believe that all kids — especially girls — deserve a chance to play, no matter where they come from or what they look like.” She added, “The more we provide girls with opportunities to get active, the more opportunities we are giving them to become leaders in their communities.” 

For the Haiti location, Play Academy will be partnering with GOALs Haiti to serve underrepresented youth. The tennis star disclosed that they were looking to “hire more female coaches, and provide girls with education to help build up their confidence, self-esteem and leadership skills.”

As for L.A., Play Academy is still looking for partners as they aim to focus on girl athletes from Black, Asian and Latino communities. 

Speaking on her organization, Osaka said, “There are huge barriers that girls face in getting active. Some girls, especially those from marginalized communities, never even get the chance to play. The more I learned about these barriers — through my work with Nike and Laureus Sport for Good – the more I felt determined to do something about it.”

She added, “It started with conversations and it became this incredible program working with community partners that are committed to leveling the playing field for girls.”

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