Announced in August of 2020, Play Academy with Naomi Osaka was created in partnership with Laureus Sport for Good with the goal to help change young girls’ lives through play and sport. Building on its work in Japan, Play Academy is expanding to Los Angeles and Haiti, collaborating with local sport-based organizations that are helping encourage a new definition of movement for the next generation of girls.
Essential to Play Academy is Osaka’s personal experiences as an athlete, set by a rich transcontinental heritage that has shaped her views on sport, racial and gender equality and mentorship. With a mission so close to her heart, Osaka wanted to champion those causes in communities she knows and is deeply connected to – starting in Japan, where she was born, and continuing to Los Angeles and Haiti, where she currently lives and where her father is from, respectively.
“I’m passionate about breaking barriers that girls face when it comes to opportunities to access and benefit from play and sport. Play Academy’s expansion represents an even greater opportunity to do that.”
In Los Angeles, Play Academy will partner with organizations that support young girls’ participation in play and sport, especially those from Black, Asian and Latino communities. The Expression of Interest from organizations is now open (Click here to learn more). The first group of partners will be announced later this summer. In Haiti, Play Academy is partnering with GOALS Haiti, a grassroots organization working to advance youth leadership through soccer and education to create stronger, healthier communities in rural Haiti. The funding will specifically be applied to sport accessibility for girls, the hiring of more female coaches and the introduction of nuanced curriculum on how to encourage girls to create positive, healthy habits.
“The beauty of Play Academy is that it reflects all of the communities where Naomi has a personal connection,” says Caitlin Morris, Nike VP, Social & Community Impact. “We share her belief that play is for everyone. Young girls in places like Los Angeles and Haiti may have different social and cultural reasons for why play and sport have been difficult to access, but in the end, they all need an opportunity to play – as well as authentic role models like Naomi, who fully embrace who they are and what they believe in.”
Since being selected as part of Play Academy, three Japanese community organizations – the National Council of YMCAs of Japan, Nadeshiko Care and Ryutsu University – have received training to help increase their organizational capabilities and give them a stronger foundation to create lasting change. The training has been focused on the topics of gender inclusivity and child safeguarding, as well as how they monitor, evaluate and report their program’s successes.
Play Academy Organizations in Action
• Through a variety of sports like tennis, running, karate and swimming, the National Council of YMCAs of Japan is helping develop self-esteem among the young girls they serve, including those from underserved communities as well as kids with different physical abilities.
• United by the value of women’s football, Nadeshiko Care empowers teenage girls through workshops that provide opportunities to interact with professional players and help guide career plans with these girls as they reach young adulthood.
• Ryutsu Keizai University supports girls and young women participating in high school and university rugby clubs. Through play, workshops and mentorship, the program works to improve goal-setting practices, self-confidence and leadership development.