Football is, for all intents and purposes, America’s Game—with all due respect to baseball. Every Sunday, millions of die-hard football fans gear up to watch all of the day’s action either from their couch or in-person.
With the rest of the world being predominantly soccer-oriented, one European nation is adopting football as their primary sport in lieu of their traditional participation in the “Beautiful Game.”
Scotland’s University of Stirling is just one of the few Scottish schools that have implemented an American football program alongside their European football programs; which features five different squads. The American football program was started in 1984-85 at the University, with one other Scotland University. The University of Stirling “Clansmen” defeated the University of Strathclyde Hawks 12-0 in the first collegiate competition in 1985.
The relatively unknown “Clansmen” compete every season with one pre-season contest and eight regular season games and dominate the Scottish University scene. To date, the team’s biggest achievement is beating arch-rival Edinburgh in record fashion with a score of 100-7 en route to an undefeated 2012 campaign. The Clansmen also
So what is it that these players like most about American football over the more traditional soccer?
One player mentioned the physicality and contact as his favorite aspect. But for running back Grant Isdale, his amazement is in his ability to avoid these big hits.
“It’s amazing how many bodies come flying at you during a game. To come out of that in one piece, it’s just incredible.”
Head coach Rob Orr has brought the same American values to this small Scottish college. The current roster features a mix of European nationalities, and even an American player or two. The novice football players are still adapting to the coaching style associated with football.
“Sometimes, Coach can be aggressive and make you feel bad about yourself or your playing ability. He will make you question yourself,” said starting-QB Luis Stephenson. “But in that same training session, he will say something that will make you say ‘this is why I’m here. Even with all of that, guys want to play with these coaches because they want to be successful.”
Though tough on his players, Coach Orr’s principles and life lessons are no different from any other current football program in the United States. Among his chief values are teamwork, training, handling adversity, and maintaining a strong academic focus.
As backup-QB Kenny Mackay put it, “I train more than I study, I honestly do. Coach pushes us hard because life is hard—he’s preparing us for that. From the outside, people don’t know what it means to be a Clansman, but these guys have helped me out and are like my family.”
But it is the ability of Coach Orr to motivate these young men that have little to no exposure to the game of football to excel. Tony McDowell summed up his initial interest in joining the unfamiliar sport.
“At first it was just something to do…I actually wanted to go out for the football squad before [I noticed] the American football team. I had some hard times at the University and was actually thinking about leaving, but with the help of [Coach Orr] and my teammates, I was able to get through it. I honestly don’t think I would be with the University right now if it weren’t for football.”
After a modicum of success in the early years, and the ability to recruit new players each and every year, Coach Orr and his staff are continuing to grow the Clansmen image and the image of American football in a nation so focused on soccer. The team is even starting to host football clinics to teach the young generations about the nuances and skills necessary to compete in football.
With NFL franchises making the move overseas to expose Europeans to the game of football, it might not be long before European leagues and squads start springing up across the globe.
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