Volleyball remains a niche sport in the UK. Training and professional volleyball events are not as common as in Poland, Russia or Italy, but there are organisations that are making small steps towards elite sport. IBB Polonia London to belongs to that category; a club with high hopes of showing off the beauty of the sport to the whole of England. They are also the only organisation offering fully professional contracts to compete against the best in Europe. One of these players is Meg Viggars, a professional British volleyball player, currently playing for ASPTT Mulhouse.
Viggars was lucky to grow up in a volleyball centre; her father showed her the sport when he was first a player and then a coach.
“I was fortunate, that I was surrounded by volleyball, but I was unaware that I would choose the volleyball route. First dad would take me to training and tell me about the game. When I stared training, I was into both football and volleyball. Eventually I chose volleyball, knowing I had greater chance of making it pro. In high school I attended a volleyball academy where I trained and studied hard. There was limited female interest in the sport, and so as one of three girls, I played with the boys and hard to compete against them. The situation caused me to work even harder and level improved quickly” – said Viggars.
She trained and played for Newcastle Staffordshire Volleyball Club based in the West Midlands as well as the Volleyball England National Academy. She soon left the UK to develop her game and moved to the USA. Another Brit encouraged her to study in the States telling her about how amazing University volleyball is.
“One Brit who actually grew up in America told me how amazing American universities were and it what a great opportunity for me it would be. I didn’t think I was ready at that point for a pro contract, so university was a really great option to play with good players. Sadly there was nowhere in England where I could have got a level of training like that. For my next step, this was the right decision.” – added Viggars.
The programme offered by the American University allowed her to play a very high standard in the NCAA league and this opened the doors for the young Brit to take up a pro contract.
“After I finished my 4-year programme at University, I signed a pro contract in Brno (Czech Republic) for half a season and next I went to France and have been playing there for 4 years.”
By this time, Viggars had already made some significant milestones. She was only 17 years old, but was in the initial Olympic squad for London 2012. She was offered a university scholarship in the USA, where she improved her level and now completes in there CEV Champions League matches and with her current team has won several titles. This season they won the French National title and French Cup. Viggars never rests on her laurels, she feels at home in France but is hoping for a contract in the top European league.
“The atmosphere in Mulhouse is really good, but my aim is always to improve and push myself to get better, so I would like to play in the top Polish, Italian or German league.”
Despite these successes, there remains little media interest in her. She hopes her height may cause people to take notice of her and to encourage the evolution of the sport amongst youngsters.
“Right now there’s very little interest in English professional players, but I hope it will grow. It would be nice for people to see how and what we are doing. We don’t have volleyball role models in England, so it would be nice to have specific examples of pro British volleyball players, who achieved something in Europe.”
Stories, such as Viggars’, show that talented young players with a British passport don’t have to end their volleyball dreams, but can have a high chance of an international career. The sooner they enter the professional volleyball world, and take their first steps towards professional volleyball, the sooner they can realise their dreams. An ideal opportunity for talented young players is the Pro Volley Academy that is specifically for 16-19 year olds that are studying for their qualifications and are also training under the watchful eyes of professional volleyball coaches from IBB Polonia London volleyball club.
“Joining the Academy is a good choice. If you can train every single day, then it is a very good step to your future professional career. Fingers crossed for all of the students in Pro Volley.” – concluded Meg Viggars.