Warminster Pink Panthers RFC
The development of Warminster Pink Panthers 3 years ago is proof that not all of the most inclusive and prolific sports clubs start off with a structured and planned launch, are often organically grown, and require someone with great enthusiasm and determination to make them successful. Rugby coach Claire MaCarron noticed a small number of girls waiting at Warminster Rugby club whilst their brothers and siblings played in games or took part in training. They either had to wait around during the session because of the logistics of transport or said that they felt intimidated about getting involved in same group as the boys.
Claire was already a level 1 rugby coach and took it upon herself to encourage the girls to join in a small informal session with her. That session started with just 4 players but over the coming weeks and months she saw numbers grow at an incredible rate. Claire joked that:
“Every week to warm up the girls would jog around the pitch and parents and other coaches would have a running joke about how many new players there were, as the group of girls continued to get bigger and bigger.”
The sessions offered girls an opportunity to try something different from the normal activities available to them within the local school and community. There was no other local girl’s rugby section in the area and the local secondary school didn’t provide opportunities for girls to play rugby within or outside of the curriculum, making it challenging for them to experience rugby for the first time.
The Rugby Football Union (RFU) and Wiltshire and Swindon Sport (WASP) got involved helping to provide funding and support which added to the local buzz and word of mouth driving numbers of girls trying the sport. The RFU supported Claire to develop links with Kingdown School and helped with delivery.
The first taster session at Kingdown school was attended by 46 girls aged 11-16 who wanted to try rugby. Since then the club averages around 30 participants making it one of the most successful Satellite Clubs which continues to provide a positive impact on so many participant’s lives. The school fully embraced and supported the formation of the extra-curricular club and due to its success have since incorporated girl’s rugby into their curriculum offer. WASP funding has helped provide equipment and training to assist ongoing delivery.
Claire has shaped the club to be enthusiastically encouraging of all young people regardless of their ability levels or any disabilities. Two young girls who are on the autistic spectrum started playing rugby regularly at the club. The mother of one of the girls received a phone call from the school because they were overwhelmed with the positive difference in her attitude and behaviour saying:
“She goes to rugby on a Sunday and all she talks about at school on Monday is rugby. She is calmer, more focused and engaging better in class as a result of being part of the club and playing rugby.”
The parents were so happy and added that the girls at school aren’t scared if they have any problems. There is a ‘big sister, little sister’ feel to the membership because the training covers a wide range of school years and age groups, so the players all know each other.
As a result of the continued push to overcome traditional barriers and stereotypes the community sessions have continued to steadily grow in numbers allowing development of an Under 13, Under 15 and Under 18 squad.
In recognition of the impact made by Claire she was awarded RFU National Volunteer for the Year Award in 2018.