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JAAFA - It's Jamaican For American Football: A Conversation with Roger Salmon

The year 2020 has driven an unexpected and catastrophic kick into the backside of gridiron dreamers and doers the world over. In the United States the long-anticipated return of the XFL has been thwarted and frankly, destroyed - by the pernicious virus known as Covid 19. European leagues that play their ever improving version of American Football are having to shutdown across the continent while their managers draw up a new game plan to make a return to the field at some point in the future.

Here at the Global Gridiron we are going to view this unprecedented pause in the great game we all love as simply a "half time" with the knowledge and hope that more exciting battles on both sides of the ball are only moments away. Until then - we will speak with many of the innovative and passionate executives around the planet who await the day when their enterprises will be able to kick off once again on the Global Gridiron. We recently had the pleasure of spending a few minutes with Roger Salmon, Director of Operations at the Jamaica American Football Association. Please follow their efforts at the online home of the Jamaica American Football Association.

GG: How has the outbreak of Covid-19 impacted the Jamaican Association of American Football's ongoing operations?

Roger: The impact of Covid-19 has been a struggle for us in that all our leagues have been postponed. We were just getting into recruiting females as we have now opened our females division for Flag Football and, that too, has been affected. We are now getting some of our players back into action by planning structured practices.

GG: What is it that excites you most about the game of American Football and - in your opinion - what are its endearing qualities in terms of the life experience that it affords both players and coaches?

Roger: What excites me is that the skills and techniques of American Football are so diverse and draw from different sporting discipline. For example, martial arts used by Offensive line and track techniques used by WR, and CB. Then you have players of varying sizes who can fit specific positions once they have that athletic ability. When you put that all together it creates an awesome masterpiece for football.

The endearing qualities that are applicable for life experiences are taught through football and has a life changing effect on coaches and players through the disciplines learnt. The importance of time, respect for self, respect for your teammates, being a leader, being responsible, working hard and smart to get positive results. I mean the lessons are endless.

GG: The world has already learned a lot about the skill and resiliency of Jamaican athletes. The speed of Usain Bolt and the determination of the Olympic Bobsled team come to mind. What particular qualities and nuance do you believe that your players bring to the game of American Football?

Roger: We have athletes who are mentally and physically built for the sport, we have seen, speed, quickness, agility and so much more given the limited resources we have. We have seen athletes come on to our practice pitch who have never played the sport before doing some tremendous stuff. Once (they are) given the support of more resources and - as our high school and club leagues continue to grow - I am positive we will have Jamaicans who have learned and play football locally making it to the NFL.

GG: It's good to see the foothold the game of Gridiron is gaining in Jamaica. We have just learned of the Jamaica National Tackle Football Association (JNTFA). What do you know about them? How does their organization differ from what you do at the JAAFA? Any chance for cooperation between your two operations?

Roger: We are partners with them and have collaborated with them in the past and have plans to continue. Our programs are somewhat similar. They do football at the high school level and mentorship. We help to develop players as leaders through mentorship and football, and have players who have come through JAAFA where several of them are now employed with the Police force and the army. We pride ourselves to do our best to motivate our players to success on and off the field. In addition we offer football at all levels for male and female at the primary, secondary, College and even adults so that players can be able to transition to the next level.

GG: Do you keep an eye on the progress American Football is making with your neighbors say in Cuba, The Bahamas and the Dominican Republic? It seems as the game continues to expand these locales could make for natural rivalries and cooperative efforts.

Roger: Yes we have. In fact, we are in discussions of doing something big for all Caribbean teams in the near future. We are in the planning stages. You will hear more about that.

GG: Has your organization enlisted the support of the world famous Kingston music community to help spread the word about the great game of Gridrion?

Roger: We have not approached them as yet as they are currently brainstorming plans of re-opening that industry.

GG: Yeah, but you have to admit it would be good to get some of the Marley extended family on your side, spreading the word and wearing your schwag???

Roger: We would appreciate that very much! The Marleys are world renown. Would be good to have them on board.

GG: Let's talk about your needs. I understand you're looking to purchase 50 balls for your programs that include club teams in Kingston, a high school league, a female circuit and youth academy. What else is on your Gridiron wish list?

Roger: Am happy you asked. Jamaica athletes are blessed with talent, however limited resources and financial help is much needed for them. We were invited to participate in the world NFFL in Florida in January this year but the team was unable to travel because of a great lack of financial help. These guys were selected from our high league and U16 Club league to represent Jamaica at the U17 level in that tournament. Hopes have been dashed but we continue to develop them hopefully we can get help for them to later play at the U20 level.

We also need to plant a top of the line football field here. This would greatly help us. I don't know if the NFL would want to set up something like that here for us - where we would take care of maintenance. Pro players would have access to the facility during off season as they vacation here in Jamaica and can use the facility for their own workout along with a kids camp, international football tournaments - you name it.


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