If things had been different, Margo Wilterns could have been practising (int.) private law in The Hague. Instead, she is guiding the next generation of Australian Volleyballers through the High Performance Development Program based at the AIS.
It’s a new look program with the integration of beach volleyball and volleyball featuring the top under-25 aged players, both men and women, seeking to make their mark on the sport.
Margo brings to the role a strong background in the sport. Her mother, Eline, played Indoor volleyball for Holland. Margo went on to represent the Netherlands in Beach volleyball. She recalls, “I was selected in the junior development squad for Holland when I was 14 years old. I stayed in the organisation until I was 32.’
She played on the European and World Tours with multiple playing partners, while at the same time studying International Law; “I always studied while I played,“ says Margo, reminded of her time before graduating with a Master of Laws from Vrije University, Amsterdam.
The London Olympics in 2012 was a league to far. After almost a decade in the national beach volleyball programs she focused her energy on graduating her Master in Law. Says Margo, “I did three internships and was hoping for a job, but I desired more exploring and connection to people in my choice of job.”
It was also around this time that an opportunity arose to set up the youth program for Dutch Beach Volleyball. What started as a six-week program resulted in an offer for the position of junior coach and her passion for the sport won over ahead of a potential career as a lawyer.
It was soon to pay dividends.
By 2015 the Dutch Junior Women’s Program with Margo at the helm won gold in Beach Volleyball in the European Under 20s. They followed it up the following year with not only the gold but emerged as the number one ranked country in Europe.
Margo’s holistic approach to coaching, which involved a collaborative approach with a team of coaches and buy in from the playing group, was being recognised globally, resulting in her appointment to the role at Volleyball Australia in February 2019.
Her attraction to the role was the vision of Volleyball Australia, “I was interested in the job description. I liked the ambition of Volleyball Australia. With the daring new approach, I had the honour to challenge my abilities to build that program. I wanted to have something that would broaden my horizons,” says Margo.
Bringing together the Beach Volleyball and Volleyball programs hasn’t been easy but her determination to make it work has prevailed and the top players, aged between 16 and 24 years, will reap the benefits.
Twenty-eight players will be based at the Centre of Excellence in Canberra with another 20 will be state based.
Australia and Norway appear to be unique in combining beach and indoor but Margo says she is excited by the challenge of nurturing the next generation of Australian players.
Her passion shines through as she talks about the care she has for her athletes, based on a people-first philosophy.
And there is also the challenge of a demanding travel schedule with this role but Margo isn’t fazed. In response to the prospect of spending up to 200 days a year out of a suitcase, Margo says, “I feel comfortable travelling, it’s always been in my life.” Much of that time will be spent travelling Australia with an expansion of the National Beach Tour this summer.
Margo will have little time to contemplate what might have been had she stayed in law, but the next generation of Australian volleyball player will be the beneficiaries of her love of the sport.