Naomi Osaka is making it her mission to help more girls around the world embrace the male-dominated world of sports.
Last year, the athlete teamed up with Nike and Laureus Sport for Good and announced the opening of the Japan-based Play Academy, but she's now helping to create two more locations: one in Los Angeles, and one in Haiti, her dad's home country.
"A few years ago, I heard a stat that girls are significantly more likely to drop out of sport than boys and that resonated with me. I can't imagine what my life would be like without tennis so I decided to start a project called Play Academy with Naomi Osaka," she shared. "Our goal is to inspire girls to stay in sport by giving them the tools, resources, and inspiration needed to stay motivated."
"The beauty of Play Academy is that it reflects all of the communities where Naomi has a personal connection. We share her belief that play is for everyone," noted Caitlin Morris, Nike VP, Social & Community Impact. "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."
Osaka has seen firsthand how having a support system can help you achieve your goals.
"Growing up, I saw my mother work incredibly hard to support me and my passion for play. She always put others first and encouraged me to embrace my diversity," she explained to PEOPLE. "Every role model I've had has inspired me to dream big. To level up in every way."
"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," the star continued. "Then maybe one day it will help them feel confident that it's OK to be different and create their own lane – as long as they remain true to themselves."