Play Academy with Naomi Osaka, the tennis star’s initiative aimed at empowering young women and girls through play and sport, is celebrating International Day of the Girl by announcing new grantees in Los Angeles and Tokyo, alongside the continuation of its work in Haiti.
Led by multiple Grand Slam Champion Naomi Osaka in partnership with NIKE, Inc. and Laureus Sport for Good Foundation, and alongside other corporate partners, Play Academy aims to level the playing field for girls by increasing their participation in sport by investing in fun, positive play experiences that invite young women to become role models, and training coaches to create more inclusive play and sport environments.
In Los Angeles, Play Academy is supporting four community sports organizations with a $50k grant over two years, each using sport to inspire and empower girls to reach their full potential. Play Academy is supporting its first tennis programs in First Break Academy and Pete Brown Jr Tennis Program. Both organizations use tennis to champion physical activity, build character and promote education. Play Academy is also supporting Beat The Streets, a program aimed at developing tomorrow’s leaders through wrestling and Kids Enjoy Exercise Now (KEEN), an organization providing girls with disabilities opportunities for play and fitness.
In Tokyo, through a grant from Play Academy, NPO Yamato Sylphid Sport Club will deliver football sessions to help girls develop into young leaders and role models, while also providing them with opportunities to discuss career, healthcare, leadership and empowerment. Now in its second year in Japan, Play Academy will also continue to partner with The National Council of YMCAs of Japan, a multi-sport program that aims to develop life skills, academic learning, wellness, community services and problem-solving among girls. And through a continued partnership with Ryutsu Keizai University, Play Academy will further its support for girls who play rugby, empowering them to become role models in their communities.
In Haiti, Play Academy will continue working with GOALS Haiti, using sport and education to advance youth leadership to build stronger, healthier communities in rural Haiti.
“Together, we’ll help girls find their way to those opportunities that might seem out of reach. Sport gives you confidence; it teaches you leadership and resilience, and better prepares you for whatever comes your way.”– Naomi Osaka
Naomi Osaka shared, “International Day of the Girl exists, because opportunities – including access to play and participate in sport – aren’t the same for girls. Our newest community partnerships, as well as our existing relationships – which are each using sport to uplift, inspire and empower young women and girls – represent an opportunity to change that. Together, we’ll help girls find their way to those opportunities that might seem out of reach. Sport gives you confidence; it teaches you leadership and resilience, and better prepares you for whatever comes your way. Sport has given me so much, and I can’t wait to see where these incredible programs in LA, Tokyo and Haiti take the girls.”
Play Academy with Naomi Osaka launched in Tokyo in 2020 and expanded to Los Angeles and Haiti in 2021. Recognizing the need for strong allies, Naomi Osaka has united Laureus’ Global Partner MUFG, Mastercard, BODYARMOR Sports Drink, Yonex, Levi Strauss & Co and Sweetgreen – alongside Nike and Laureus Sport for Good – to share in her commitment and further invest in giving girls more opportunities to participate and benefit from play and sport.
Naomi Osaka writes to Play Academy grantee participants:
Hello, and welcome to Play Academy with Naomi Osaka. That’s me.
Please know that I’m thinking about you as you start your journey with Play Academy in Tokyo, Los Angeles or Haiti. It’s a journey I’ve thought about a lot as I developed Play Academy, with Nike and Laureus Sport for Good, and which community programs we wanted to support. The best thing about this journey? The destination is entirely up to you.
Play Academy doesn’t exist to develop elite athletes – even if one day you might represent your country at the Olympic Games, or be number one in the world. But what I would tell you if I was there with you today is this: Sport can help you reach your full potential.
That’s what I want for you – to discover everything that sport can unlock inside you.
Did you know today – October 11 – is International Day of the Girl? The United Nations declared this day of observation to recognize the gender inequities girls around the world experience. I know that life is harder for girls, and the opportunities are not the same. In 2021? Come on, we can do something about that.
I believe that sport can help you find your way to those opportunities that might seem out of reach. You’ll find that sport gives you confidence. It’ll teach you leadership and resilience. And it’ll help prepare you for whatever comes your way. And who knows, maybe you can become a role model within your own community for other girls behind you.
Maybe you’re reading this in Japan, where we first launched Play Academy. Did you know girls in Japan aged between 6 and 18 are 20% less likely to participate in sport? By the time they are 15, they drop out of sport at double the rate of boys their age. Yeah, let’s fix that, too.
Perhaps you’re in Haiti, a place so close to my heart, or in Los Angeles, at one of the great programs we will be supporting that serve a diverse group of young people – girls from Black and Brown communities, girls with disabilities and their moms, and girls that have so many unique backgrounds. Because while we can’t work with everyone all at once, we want to change the game for all girls, not just a lucky few.
I know there’s something for you here. I hope it’s a long-lasting participation in the program you are part of. But even if it’s just the idea that sport can help you make better choices and you’ll pick up new skills, then that’s a great place to start.
That’s why I started Play Academy – to help give you a chance to find out where sport will take you. So, pick up the racket; put on your cleats; take the field, or dive into the pool. And know I’m right there with you. Let’s go! – Naomi