Touch football targets Government approvalMonday, October 25, 2021
THE National Touch Football Association (NTFA) is the latest high school sports organisation that has sent a proposal to the Ministry of Sports and the Office of Disaster Preparedness and Emergency Management (ODPEM) as they seek to return to the field of play.
Jerome Harriott, the founder and organiser of the American (gridiron) football competition, is hoping to start their third season in January 2022 when they expect to have 16 schools — double the number taking part that played in 2020 across five parishes .
Munro College were crowned champions of the first two competitions, the first played on a 'flag football' format which saw no tackling. The second, which ended on February 2020, was full tackle.
Munro College had beaten deCarteret College 18-0 in the first final at Treasure Beach Sports Complex in St Elizabeth, and beat Newell High 54-26 in the second final at the UWI Bowl in St Andrew.
Harriott described the response to the game as “enthusiastic” and said it added “another avenue where Jamaican high school athletes can earn scholarships”.
He told the Sunday Observer last week that “the natural speed and athleticism of the players, some of who used to play soccer and run track, cannot be taught and the players have adapted to the game faster than I had imagined”.
A number of US college and prep school coaches had visited the set-up when they played games at Treasure Beach Sports Complex, and a number of players had caught their eye he said.
“Unfortunately, the onset of the [novel coronavirus] pandemic had set things back but we really hope that we can get going early in the new year, when we expect to see an improvement in the play from the student athletes,” noted Harriott.
If they get the go-ahead Harriott said he expected a number of newcomers, among them St Jago High, Camperdown High, Clan Carthy High, Papine High, Tivoli Gardens High, Denham Town High, Foga Road High and Denbigh High.
“It's unfortunate that we had to cancel last year; and like the other contact sports like soccer and basketball, these kids really wanted to play and we had high hopes,” he said.
Harriott added: “The prime focus for the NTFA is to get back on track for the development of the scholarship opportunities, both domestically and abroad, for our student athletes. The scholarship opportunities for student athletes in American tackle football is immeasurable for the secondary school athletes seeking to attain US and Canadian recruitment.”
During the lockdown, Harriott said to assist athletes, “coaches and officials stay on track through this time of unpredictability. The NTFA has designed an online training programme that has been utilised to keep them engaged and assist them in learning and training for the sport on their own or in small groups”.
Presently, he said, over 1,400 athletes were involved in the league at the “secondary schools, tertiary institutions, and the national programme”.
“We expect more institutions and athletes to come on board when the programmes have been cleared for return to play by the Government of Jamaica,” Harriott said.
— Paul Reid