NIKE, Inc., together with Naomi Osaka and Laureus Sport for Good, launched Play Academy with Naomi Osaka, an initiative aimed at changing girls’ lives through play and sport.
Play Academy builds on Nike’s Made to Play efforts to get children in Tokyo active, and it accelerates the focus on providing more opportunities for girls to play. This is a first for Nike and Naomi Osaka in Tokyo, and together they will help drive change for girls and help them get active. Tokyo has some of the highest global rates of girls dropping out of sport – at more than twice the rate of boys – by the age of 15.
“I believe in the power of sport to create bigger change, and I’m passionate about inspiring the next generation of female athletes,” shared Naomi Osaka. “I’ve been playing tennis since I was three years old, and it has changed my life. But I know not all girls – especially girls from underserved communities – have the same opportunities or role models that I’ve had, and I want to do something about it.”
Play Academy aspires to level the playing field for girls through sports experiences that help them break free from gender stereotypes. The initiative seeks to increase girls’ participation in sport by investing in fun, positive play experiences and inviting young women to become role models, as well as other evidence-based approaches including coaches who are trained in gender-inclusivity. Girls who are active are not only healthier and do better in school, in their careers and in the community, but they also have an increased sense of self, positive coping skills and increased goal setting.
“Play and sport can have a positive, life-long impact on kids, but not all kids get the opportunity to participate,” explained Miki Morimoto, Nike’s Director of Social & Community Impact, Asia Pacific. “Girls especially face additional barriers, including a lack of diverse opportunities to engage in play and sport, fewer female coaches or role models and cultural barriers. We have the opportunity to help change that through Play Academy and our partnership with Naomi.”
With the grant-making process already underway, the initiative will support Japan-based community organizations that use play and sport to change the lives of girls by providing funding and capacity-building training – through Nike partner Laureus Sport for Good – in areas such as gender-inclusivity.
“Helping to facilitate the power of athletes to inspire children and young people to change the world for the better is at the core of Laureus’ work,” said Adam Fraser, Chief Executive of Laureus Sport for Good Global. “This initiative, championed by a role model like Naomi, will provide new opportunities for girls in Tokyo to benefit from sport and will support our ambition to contribute to girls’ and womens’ equal participation and leadership.”
Recognizing the need for strong allies, Osaka has united BODYARMOR Sports Drink and Yonex – alongside Nike and Laureus Sport for Good – to share in her commitment to invest in and support change for girls.
In sharing her ultimate vision, Osaka added, “Through Play Academy, I hope to help girls realize their potential through the joy of play and sport. They can be the roles models for future generations to follow.”