When she’s not winning tennis titles and breaking records, Naomi Osaka is committed to changing lives of girls through sport. Now the Nike athlete and tennis star has teamed up with Laureus Sport for Good to foster that mission by launching a Play Academy to increase the participation of girls in sports.
The program emphasizes fun, positive play experiences with coaches who are trained in gender inclusivity. Osaka, who was born in Japan but lives in Florida, said in an op-ed on Nike’s news site that the program’s aim is to “level the playing field by changing the game for girls.”
“The more I learned about the barriers that girls face in getting active, the more determined I felt to do something about it,” Osaka said in the op-ed. “I started talking with people who could help—people who understand just how much sport and play can mean for a girl who’s still finding her own place in this big world.”
Osaka concluded, “I can’t wait to get started with Play Academy. I hope that the girls will learn new skills, maybe discover a new favorite sport because you never know where it might take you. But I also hope that they will have fun, gain confidence and realize just how powerful girls can be—no matter who you are, where you’re from or what color your skin. Who knows? Maybe someday, they’ll look around and realize that they’ve become role models for others too.”
The program will launch in Tokyo and award grants to help build community organizations by inviting young women to become role models.