- Claire MacCarron is the coach of Warminster RFC’s girls teams
- She was named as one of the Mitsubishi Motors Volunteers of the Year
If you had gone down to Warminster RFC on a Sunday morning four years ago you might have witnessed the unlikely start of the Pink Panthers.
It was 2015 and the Wiltshire club counted just three girls among their youth membership when one week Claire MacCarron was came down having been asked by a friend to help out with coaching.
“I remember it so well,” says MacCarron. “I had just left the army and a friend had suggested I go down to Warminster to help grow their girls section.”
“The day I arrived I was handed the kit and a whistle and pointed in the direction of the girls.”
Things started moving pretty quickly after that. After 23 years serving with the armed forces all over the world, MacCarron was looking for an opportunity to throw herself into something new and this proved to be just the thing.
A former player who then qualified as a coach and referee, she quickly started to find success with the girls at Warminster.
Four years on and they have over 35 players across the U13s, U15s and U18s with many of girls completely new to the sport who have since gone on to represent the county.
It has been a whirlwind for MacCarron who is still driven by her desire to grow women’s and girls’ rugby.
“I knew that in order to make a success of it that I needed it to be led by the players. So thing like our team name, ‘The Pink Panthers’, and our kit were all decided by the players.
“Every week a new person would hear about us and come along and we started a welcoming committee where our existing girls would make sure that any newcomers new everyone’s name and was familiar with the club.
“It became an identity, it became something that was cool and that other girls wanted to be part of.
“The parents always say to me ‘I don’t know what you do. They never get up for school but for rugby on a Sunday they are up and out every week’.”
MacCarron’s incredible work was recognised when she was named a Mitsubishi Motors Volunteer of the Year last year but says the success of the Pink Panthers has been down to the girls themselves.
“They just bring so much energy and enthusiasm and that’s what makes it great. Every week I think the girls display the very best of rugby’s values.
“I have done numerous operational tours where you have to respect each other and the teamwork element is so important, making sure you never leave anyone behind and looking out for one another.
“That’s something I think this team does well and I’m so proud of them.”