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Has the Taylor Swift effect helped American Football in Scotland?

Taylor Swift with her NFL partner Travis Kelce when his Kansas City Chiefs booked their spot in the Super Bowl
Taylor Swift with her NFL partner Travis Kelce when his Kansas City Chiefs booked their spot in the Super Bowl

Taylor Swift has brought a new global audience to the sport of American football.

Swifties can't get enough of seeing their idol in the NFL stands supporting her partner Travis Kelce, but other young women are deeper into the game.

One group of women in Lanarkshire don't want to watch the sport from the sidelines though - they want to be on the field.

The East Kilbride Pirates are one of only two women's American Football teams in Scotland which compete in the National Women's Football League.

Ahead of this Sunday's Super Bowl, when the Kansas City Chiefs take on the San Francisco 49ers in Las Vegas, they have spoken to BBC Scotland News.

Ami Coleman is a European champion in women's flag football which will feature in the 2028 Olympic Games
Ami Coleman is a European champion in women's flag football which will feature in the 2028 Olympic Games

Ami Coleman is the team's youngest player. At 17, she's only been pulling on her pads and helmet for a year but she has played the non-contact version of the sport - flag football - for seven years.

"I used to play football and I was looking for something new," she said. "My uncle took me along to flag football. I was the only girl in the team but it stole me and I found a love for it."

Abi played for Team GB in the European Championships in Italy in September - and won.

She is now dreaming of Olympic glory after flag football was added to the 2028 summer Olympic Games in Los Angeles.

"It all clicked one day at training when I realised I was keeping up with the boys," she said.

She will keep playing flag football and is developing her full-contact game.

'Taylor Swift has brought dads and daughters together'

Jen Storrie has seen the Swift effect bring little girls into the game
Jen Storrie has seen the Swift effect bring little girls into the game

Jen Storrie, an NHS speech and language therapist from Carluke, got into the NFL through her husband and decided to try playing after the pandemic.

"When you are on the field, it is a pure adrenaline rush," she said.

"You are trying to remember which way to go, what to do. Plays last two or three seconds, so you're on the floor and you're like 'did I do that right or wrong? I'm on the floor, is that good or is it bad?'"

She thinks Taylor Swift has brought the game to a new audience, and brought families together.

"I've seen on X [formerly known as Twitter], lots of dads sharing the game with their little girls, and their daughters get excited when they see Taylor, they know the positions, they know the routes they know things about the sport now. It's grown into a gateway for these girls.

"I think it's fantastic that she has made it more mainstream."

'These lassies are like sisters to me'

Jem Thomson McAdam loves the adrenaline rush of hitting other players
Jem Thomson McAdam loves the adrenaline rush of hitting other players

Jem Thomson McAdam, from Cambuslang, calls the Pirates "her family".

She is a full-time carer to her gran and enjoys the release.

"Most of these lassies are like sisters to me now," she said. "You get to meet people and travel around. I've met so many people and I got to play in the Champions Bowl in Croatia."

Jem started with flag football, but loves the excitement of full contact football.

Women's American Football teams play with fewer players and a smaller pitch but otherwise it's exactly the same as the men's game.

"I love crashing into someone," Jem said. "When I'm not playing I miss the random bruises.

"It's hard the first time but you get used to it.

"There was a girl in Manchester and when I went to tackle her she just ran out of bounds. Then she looked at me and just said 'no'."

'It releases some stress'

two American football players in East Kilbride
The ladies of the EK Pirates are not afraid of the hard hits

Robin McCluskey is a high school technical teacher from Coatbridge.

She has been playing flag and contact for a total of seven years, after getting involved as a form of exercise following the birth of her son.

"It brought my fitness back. It's just dead exciting - something different every time you play," she said.

"Three seasons ago they were struggling for numbers - I thought it's now or never so I tried it and just loved it.

"I went to practice during the week then they had a game on the Saturday so it was trial by fire."

She too loves the big hits.

"You just do it and get on with it. Nobody takes it personally, it's just good fun and releases some stress for me."

And she said more girls had been asking her about the game since Taylor Swift was spotted in the stands in the NFL.

The first-timer

Nikki Jeffrie
Nikki Jeffrie tried American football for the first time and loved it

Fresh from the training pitch, bus driver Nikki Jeffrie from Cumbernauld has had her first trial session.

She loved it.

"It's much better than I thought," she said. "I've had a fab time. I haven't done fitness for good while and I wasn't interested in joining a gym. I wanted to do a sport.

"I loved trying out new things and realising I was fitter than I thought I would be. I loved the tackling.

"I'll be back".

What brought her to an American Football practice in the first place?

She admits it was a slightly alcohol-fuelled decision.

"My friend Heather has done it for some time and I have never followed through in saying I would try it.

"I was at a 40th party on Saturday and I just made that commitment to come."