Local ministries join JAMAAD to introduce American Football to schools

BY RUDDY ALLEN Observer staff reporter

Saturday, March 25, 2017

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The ministries of education, youth and information as well as culture, gender, entertainment and Sport are partnering with the Jamaican American Athletic Development Incorporation (JAMAAD) — a United States-based — non-profit organisation, to introduce for the first time in the country, American football.


Nicole Hoyen-Birch, founder and director of JAMAAD, made the announcement at a press conference held at the Overseas Examinations Commission in Kingston on Thursday.


The programme, known as the Touchdown Project, will get under way in schools in September of this year.


The 16 chosen schools to host the programme are Rusea’s High, Manning’s, Cornwall College, Munro College, William Knibb Memorial, Manchester High, Fern Court High, Glenmuir High, St Mary High, St Catherine High, Jamaica College, Campion College, Calabar High, St George’s College, Titchfield High and Morant Bay High.


The schools were chosen based on a number of criteria such as having a suitable playing field and being in the top 50 schools in terms of academic performance. Also, any child from the parish can play for the team, and the school will act as the home base for that parish.


Hoyen-Birch said that the primary objective of the Touchdown Project is to access scholarship opportunities for students to further their education in the United States, with some hopefully going on to play the game professionally.


"We really want to create opportunities for Jamaican kids to get scholarships to go abroad. Jamaican kids are extremely athletic. There is a large pool of talent here and we are not fully utilising the talent, and the way to do that is to create other opportunities through other sports in addition to track and field, soccer, cricket, basketball, etc.


"I believe that this will be a huge success, but also that depends on Jamaicans and the Diaspora and the Americans. We [Jamaicans] have been branded as the fastest people in the world and Americans get excited about seeing the fastest people in the world geared up and play in American sport that require speed, agility, contact sport and fun. Overall, I expect the programme will do very well here," Hoyen-Birch told the
Jamaica Observer.


In addition to the Touchdown Project, Hoyen-Birch said that Project Home Run (baseball) and Project Slam Dunk (basketball) programmes are in the pipeline.


A comprehensive training programme for local coaches is being developed. The coaching programme will run from April to May and a coaching clinic will be held in June.


Coaches at each school will receive certification and training in American football and work with renowned American coaches and professionals.


Phase one of the programme will be to introduce Jamaican coaches to the game focusing on the basic principles and rules.


In phase two, the Jamaica coaches will then pass on this knowledge to interested students and host fitness and agility camps to recruit potential players.


These players will begin practising and doing drills in a non-contact format, otherwise known as flag football, before advancing to the full-contact version of the game using proper equipment.


Every child will be fully equipped with the necessary clothing and protective gear. There will be no cost to the Government of Jamaica or the participating schools, as the programme will be fully sponsored by JAMAAD and its affiliates.


Hoyen-Birch revealed that sporting giant Nike has already shown an interest in getting on board in a major way, and members of the Jamaican Diaspora have agreed to sponsor certain aspects of the programme.


Ruel Reid, minister of education, youth and information, said that he was hoping that over a two-year period they would begin to see the desired results of students demonstrating an acceptance for American football and also positioning themselves academically for scholarship opportunities.


"We are fully aware that resource is only one aspect of the equation. A committed team of educators and coaches are an integeral part of the use of these resources to better serve our students as we prepare them for significant contributions to our society and the world at large," he said.


Florette Blackwood, senior director, sport division, representing Olivia Grange, minister of culture, gender, entertainment and sport, said: "The role of sport cannot be overstated in facilitating and creating avenues for economic well-being, education pursuits, health lifestyle and a more productive workforce. We can definitively speak to the importance of sport and its role in enhancing Brand Jamaica. It is my pleasure to work with JAMAAD."

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