An Atlanta based non-profit, Jamaican American Athletic Development Inc (JAMAAD), has launched the Touchdown Project, an initiative which aims to introduce American football to Jamaican high schools in the 2017 / 2018 school year.
Working with the Ministry of Youth, Education, and Information, JAMAAD plans to roll out the project to sixteen (16) schools across the island initially. The schools will compete in two (2) conferences comprised of eight (8) teams each.
JAMAAD was founded in 2015 by Atlanta-based Jamaica-born attorney, Nicole Hoyen-Birch, who attended St. George’s Girls Primary School in downtown Kingston. Their website – www.jamaadsports.com – states their mission as “helping Jamaica’s at-risk youth gain access to opportunities for advancement through American sports.”
The organization’s all-Jamaican board of directors includes Zachary Harding, CEO, Hyperion Equity; David Panton, chairman and CEO, Panton Capital Partners; Bindley Sangster Jr, regional manager, Panasonic Corps; Soyini Ma’at, founder/executive director, Bright Learning Academy; and Christopher Stewart, branch manager, Prime Mortgage Lending Inc.
According to Nicole, 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. In 2016 alone, US colleges awarded over US$3 billion in athletic scholarships. The sport that benefited the most was American football, with over 90,000 students receiving scholarships.
Jamaicans are known worldwide for their speed. American football coaches recruit players based on a number of criteria including speed, intelligence, strength, and agility. The idea is for Jamaican teenage boys to be taught the rudiments and disciplines of the game, and develop an appreciation for the sport, paving the way for the recruitment of Jamaican students to American schools to play the game. This would provide a new set of opportunities for academic, social and professional advancement, in turn, having a measurable impact on the local economy.
JAMAAD is staggering the roll-out of its programs. Project Home-Run JA (baseball) and Project Slam Dunk (basketball) will ensue after the Touchdown Project.