Naomi Osaka is a half Japanese and half Haitian Olympic tennis player who represents Japan in competitions. Osaka has great role models who have supported her throughout her entire life. As such, Osaka understands the immense impact that positive role models can have on young adolescents, especially girls. When girls turn 14 years old, they are estimated to leave sports twice as often as boys their same age. Naomi Osaka is improving gender equality through her love of sports by positively impacting young people’s lives and creating a space for people to embrace their culture. Furthermore, Osaka’s foundation and others are working hard to build classrooms, tennis courts and more to help alleviate global poverty.
Naomi Osaka Play Academy
The Naomi Osaka Play Academy is an initiative founded last year that aims to change girls’ lives through play and sport. Osaka wanted to start the initiative in Tokyo knowing how impactful role models were to her at a young age. Additionally, Play Academy has provided grants and gender-inclusive training to three organizations that empower young girls. Its success expanded to Los Angeles where Osaka aims to ensure that Black, Asian and Latinx communities have more opportunities to engage in sports. The initiative has proven to be extremely successful. As such, Osaka began working within communities in Haiti, where her father is originally from.
Play Academy in Haiti
About 90% of Haitian adolescents report never having played a sport before. Fortunately, Play Academy has partnered with GOALS Haiti to reach this underrepresented demographic. Osaka believes in empowering young adolescents in Haiti to embrace diversity. The initiative has allowed for the construction of classrooms, tennis courts and it has sent many children abroad to expand and improve studies. Furthermore, Play Academy and GOALS Haiti aim to improve and advance youth leadership. Both organizations share the same goal of promoting gender equality through soccer and education while creating stronger and healthier communities in rural Haiti.
Naomi Osaka believes it is incredibly important to have women in leadership positions. Women including Michelle Obama and Kamala Harris are just a few leaders that have influenced Osaka in her life. She hopes athletes including herself and Serena Williams, who own National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL) teams, will inspire young girls all around the world.
Osaka is improving gender equality worldwide by promoting a passion for sports and giving children opportunities to enjoy participating in sports. Osaka is unique as a Japanese national while directly resonating with Haitian communities. Acknowledging the importance of having role models, Osaka hopes that her and others’ work will help alleviate poverty. She also hopes it helps girls create a more equitable future while nurturing and inspiring the world’s next athletes.
– Mio Vogt