Naomi Osaka is lending a helping hand to even more aspiring athletes.
The tennis superstar’s Play Academy with Nike and Laureus Sport for Good — which first launched in Japan last summer — is expanding to two new locations: Los Angeles, California, and Haiti. Play Academy provides grants and capacity-building training for community organizations in order to boost girls’ access to and participation in sport.
“We believe that all kids — especially girls — deserve a chance to play, no matter where they come from or what they look like,” Osaka tells PEOPLE. “The more we provide girls with opportunities to get active, the more opportunities we are giving them to become leaders in their communities.”
In Haiti, Play Academy will be partnering with GOALS Haiti to reach underrepresented youth. Osaka says they’re hoping to “hire more female coaches, and provide girls with education to help build up their confidence, self-esteem and leadership skills.”
Play Academy is still seeking community partners in Los Angeles, and aiming to focus on girl athletes from Black, Asian and Latino communities. Osaka notes that interested partners can apply at http://laureus.com/playacademyla.
Both locations have special meaning to the athlete: Los Angeles is where Osaka currently lives and trains, and Haiti is where her father is from.
Osaka’s own tennis journey is, of course, part of the inspiration for Play Academy. “Growing up I dreamed about winning Grand Slams and becoming number one in the world,” she recounts. “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.”
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SOURCE: PEOPLE, Lindsay Kimble