Naomi Osaka to launch tennis academy in Haiti, Los Angeles

"While it was not easy, my family was dedicated to helping me get the access I needed to reach my goals. But unfortunately, not all girls have the same opportunities that I did," Osaka said.

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Naomi Osaka may have taken a short break from tennis but that does not mean she is slowing down.

The tennis star recently announced she is expanding her tennis academy to Haiti and Los Angeles, California. The Play Academy with Nike and Laureus Sport for Good kicked off in Japan last summer but now the tennis champion is expanding to other locations close to her heart, per PEOPLE.

“Growing up, I saw my mother work incredibly hard to support me and my passion for play,” said the Grand Slam winner.

Naomi Osaka
Naomi Osaka of Japan celebrates with the trophy after winning her Women’s Singles final match against Victoria Azarenka of Belarus on Day Thirteen of the 2020 US Open at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center on September 12, 2020 in the Queens borough of New York City. (Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images)

“She always put others first and encouraged me to embrace my diversity. Every role model I’ve had has inspired 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 stick 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 themselves.”

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Osaka hails from Japan but her father is Haitian. She currently resides and trains in Los Angeles. The Play Academy is a collaboration with Nike and Laureus Sport for Good and the objective of the program is to provide capacity-building training and grants with  community organizations in hopes of encouraging girl’s participation in sports.

The Los Angeles Play Academy is seeking community partners to help support Black and female athletes of color. Those interested are encouraged to apply here.

The Play Academy in Haiti will partner with GOALS Haiti and aims to reach underrepresented youth. Its mission is to “hire more female coaches, and provide girls with education to help build up their confidence, self-esteem and leadership skills.”

The young star wants to give back to those who were not afforded the same opportunities as she was.

Read More: Mari Osaka announces tennis retirement: ‘It was a journey I didn’t enjoy’

“Growing up I dreamed about winning Grand Slams and becoming number one in the world,” she said. “While it was not easy, my family was dedicated to helping me get the access I needed to reach my goals. But unfortunately, not all girls have the same opportunities that I did.”

“There are huge barriers that girls face in getting active. Some girls, especially those from marginalized communities, never even get the chance to play,” said Osaka. “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.”

Naomi Osaka
Naomi Osaka of Japan reacts against Maria Sakkari of Greece in their quarterfinal match of the Miami Open at Hard Rock Stadium on March 31, 2021 in Miami Gardens, Florida. (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images)

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.”

Osaka said sports offer amazing benefits to young girls and she is right. According to The Children’s Medical Group, girls who play sports are healthier and reduce the risk of colon, breast cancers, heart disease and high blood pressure later in life.

The Play Academy partners will be announced this summer.

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

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