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Badminton Olympian Heather Olver visits the College

Pupils at Eastbourne College were recently able to practise their racquet skills with Olympian badminton star Heather Olver on Saturday, as part of the school’s ongoing drive to boost wellbeing and girls’ participation in the sport.

Heather, whose career highlights include competing at the 2016 Olympics in Rio, ran a special coaching session at the school to share the benefits of badminton on mental and physical health and to inspire more young players.  

“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.

“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 OlverHeather was born in Eastbourne and developed a love of the sport playing at a club in Heathfield. After being spotted at a young age, she followed her dream to compete at international level, winning bronze at the European Championships in 2010 and silver in the mixed doubles team at the 2014 Commonwealth Games.

The badminton star acknowledged the pressures on young people today and an increasing awareness around mental health in sport, with an emphasis on fun over competition success, 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.

Heather said: “If we can get more girls and women into sport through badminton, that’s great.

“It’s a really good option as not everyone wants to play the other team sports.”

Heather’s sessions at Eastbourne College form part of a renewed drive to encourage pupils to take part in physical activity, especially following the coronavirus lockdowns.

Deputy Head of Co-Curricular Anthony Lamb MBE said Heather’s attitude echoes the school’s approach in developing a passion for sport and fitness 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.

To read more about our sporting provision click here.