COLLEGE students trained with an Olympian as part of a drive to get more girls involved in sport.

Heather Olver, 35, whose career highlights include competing at the 2016 Olympics in Rio, has been running special coaching sessions at Eastbourne College.

Her aim is to share the benefits of badminton on mental and physical health and to inspire more young players.

She said: “Badminton can be a massive boost to mental wellbeing as it’s very social - you can play it as a doubles team and you can play at all levels. There’s a huge social aspect around it.

The Argus: Heather Olver Heather Olver

“There’s also lots of transferable skills, from teamwork and cooperation to communication and problem solving.

"If you’re playing as a partnership you have to work out ways of solving problems - without winding your partner up.

“Sometimes people think badminton is quite an easy sport and so we’re trying to break that image in these sessions. It’s very physical. I get pupils doing movement exercises and some fun games too.”

Heather was born in Eastbourne and developed a love of the sport playing at a club in Heathfield.

The badminton star acknowledged the pressures on young people today and an increasing awareness around mental health in sport, as well as the need to drive engagement among teenage girls.

It comes after research published this year by the charity Women in Sport found just 10 per cent of girls aged 13-16 achieve recommended daily levels of physical activity.

Deputy head of co-curricular Anthony Lamb said Heather’s attitude echoes the school’s approach in developing a passion for sport through fun, and a wide variety of activities.

He said: “Every pupil is expected to participate in some form of exercise or sport activity, and between 90 and 95 per cent of pupils represent the school in regular team fixtures.

“There's always a cohort of boys and girls who cherish alternatives to the core sports which is why we offer badminton, basketball, dance and yoga – as well as all the water sports pupils can take up here on the coast, from paddle boarding to windsurfing.

“We recognise that girls can become disengaged in sport in their early teenage years, so we’ve also launched our Paw programme: pilates, aerobics, walks – designed to instil this lifelong attitude of wanting to stay healthy and fit."

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