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Gym'll fix it for college champs

It has just 1,500 students with no sports hall or gym and just a few pitches. Yet Worthing College in Sussex is celebrating winning a string of national and regional sports titles and producing athletes who compete for Great Britain.

The volleyball team, which recently won the national championships for British colleges, could only train before tournaments when they borrowed a nearby school sports hall.

Jenny Thompson, the college's curriculum team manager for sport, said: "If we had a sports hall to train more, we could do even better. We don't have any AstroTurf for hockey either, just two football pitches and a rugby pitch.

"What we do have is excellent teaching and excellent coaching and we maximise our students' potential."

She said the college holds a "audit" where every student is asked if they have any particular sporting abilities. They are then encouraged to develop them.

Sports courses are also extremely popular. Just a few years ago, the college had only two physical education teachers and 50 students, but now 400 students - more than a quarter of the total - study PE for A-levels or Btecs, or train at the college's sports academy.

Students receive 10 hours a week of dedicated sports coaching in football, hockey, netball for the girls or rugby for the boys, while studying for sports Btecs or any of the A-levels offered at the college.

The college believes its emergence as a sporting powerhouse punching above its weight has revitalised all aspects of student life. "I think behind every well established, well run, successful college is an outstanding sports department," Ms Thompson said. "It helps with motivation, hard work and discipline and it also gives a sense of community and ownership within the college.

"The college as a whole benefits."

As well as the volleyball championship, the college can boast an English title in college golf and regional championships in football and badminton over the past year. The victories were achieved with the help of students such as Theresa Farley, who plays volleyball for the GB under-19 team, William Horton-Jackson, an under-19 badminton national team player, and Grace McCutcheon, who skis for Great Britain.

Peter Corrigan, the principal, says the college has plans to expand and increase its sports facilities.

Ms Thompson admits that at the moment the college's rugby sides can struggle against highly resourced public schools or colleges with academies linked to professional teams. She looks forward to new developments to level the playing field.

"We will be competing with all these places over the next few years. We are winning matches every week across the board and winning trophies across the board. It's a major feat," she said.

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