COVID-19 forces changes to Australian Volleyball Academy programs

Stricter measures surrounding COVID-19 have resulted in the Australian Volleyball Academy’s (AVA) normal programming, including face-to-face coaching and team training, being suspended indefinitely.From Monday 30 March a remotely delivered program has been made available to all AVA athletes.

As a result, it is with a heavy heart that Volleyball Australia also announces that Margo Wiltens will be departing her role as Head Coach of the Australian Volleyball Academy.Martin Collins remains as Coach of AVA programs, providing the athletes with remote training content.

This follows an extremely tough period in Australian sport, which has seen many event postponements and cancellations due to the COVID-19 pandemic currently sweeping the globe. This includes Volleyball Australia’s marquee event for 2020—the FIVB 3 Star Beach Volleyball event, which was due to be held in Coolangatta in March.

Margo was recruited by Volleyball Australia in 2019 to establish the Australian Volleyball Academy, having previously represented the Netherlands as a beach volleyball athlete from 2004-2011, and as Head Coach for the Dutch National Women’s Development Beach Volleyball programs from 2013-2018.

Margo Wiltens has been instrumental in creating the AVA’s centralised and de-centralised beach program under Volleyball Australia’s ‘pivot to beach’ strategy. Under her guidance, the AVA beach athletes performed exceptionally well on the 2020 Australian Beach Volleyball Tour (ABVT), including eight medals in the ABVT U19 and 21s.

”On behalf of Australian Volleyball, I’d like to thank Margo for the professionalism and dedication she has demonstrated during her time with us. She certainly challenged our thinking, introduced new ways of doing things, and left nothing out on the court. We wish her all the very best in the future,” said Volleyball Australia CEO Andrew Dee.

Margo will take this time to consider the next step in her career. She hopes to find career opportunities in Australia that will enable her to continue to contribute to the sport of volleyball.

Said Wiltens about her departure; “Due to circumstances beyond our control VA has been required to place its ambitious project on hold. I am grateful for what we achieved over such a short timeframe already.” Furthermore she added, “Working together with Team Australia, coaches, athletes and staff, has been truly amazing.”

Australian Volleyball Academy beach athlete, Mark Nicolaidis, had the privilege of working with Margo since she began at Volleyball Australia. Mark responded to the news; “I’m truly grateful for the time I’ve been able to spend with Margo both in Australia and overseas. Her commitment to volleyball and the athletes, and her goals and ambitions for the future have been incredible. There are not many other people I know that are as determined and committed as her. I thank Margo for all her work and wish her the best.”

Volleyball Australia’s National Technical Director, Phil Borgeaud, also shared his view on the news; “Margo has been a key driver for VA’s ‘pivot to beach’ strategy and has successfully raised the priority of Beach Volleyball in VA’s pathways programs. Her energy, enthusiasm, work ethic has inspired us all, particularly the young athletes who have aspirations for international success.”

Volleyball Australia remains committed to the philosophy of an integrated elite volleyball development model with the objective of winning Olympic and World Championship medals in Beach Volleyball. An announcement will be made about the future structure of the AVA program once future circumstances concerning COVID-19 become clearer.