World class Jamaican hockey?
Jamaica has the human resources to produce world class hockey teams. That's the considered opinion of Fabian Stewart, the president of the Jamaica Hockey Federation (JHF).
Stewart is optimistic about the prospects for the sport in Jamaica but cautions that they rest on the federation's ability to raise sufficient funds to support development. Central to that goal, he believes, is the development of young players.
Speaking earlier this week, the JHF president expressed confidence in the ability of Jamaicans to play world-class hockey.
"We're going to put our hands down in order to work really hard to put the necessary programmes in place because we have the human resources here to compete internationally and I will say globally," Stewart asserted.
He said the federation places youth at the centre of such an effort. "It's absolutely necessary that we build the youth in order for them to matriculate in not only clubs but also to continue the national programme," he reasoned.
Jamaica currently appears at number 65 and number 61 in the men's and women's world hockey rankings respectively. Caribbean neighbours Trinidad and Tobago appear at number 33 and number 35, with Cuba and Barbados also more highly ranked among both men and women than Jamaica.
According to Stewart, the federation wants to propel Jamaica up through the rankings.
"One of the things I would like to say is that there is a correlation between your participation in tournaments and world rankings and your participation in tournaments is directly related to your financial capacity to do so.
"The important issue is our ability to raise the funds in order to have the teams participate in, especially points-related tournaments," he said of the sport's World League and other events where world ranking points can be accumulated. Jamaica hosted a leg of the World Hockey League in 2014.
At the recent CAC Games hockey qualifying tournament in Kingston, Jamaica beat marginally more highly ranked teams. The men defeated Guatemala who arrived with a world ranking of 62 while the women beat Bermuda, currently ranked at number 60.
Stewart noted there are benefits from playing against the best.
"Once we start to participate in most of these points related tournaments, ... what you'll find is that the ranking will go up, but correspondingly, it is clear that especially for Trinidad and other teams, the more tournaments you participate in, the better the athletes perform on the big stage," he explained.
Cuba beat Trinidad and Tobago to win the CAC Games men's gold medal in 2014 and edged the Dominican Republic in the women's final. Mexico took both bronze medals with Barbados and Trinidad and Tobago fourth, respectively.