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Vanuatu Volleyball was excited to welcome back former coach Michel Bargmann in early August, returning for a brief 6-month impact coaching role.

Bargmann was the national coach from 2018, until the global pandemic forced him and his young family to leave Vanuatu, returning to Germany, in March 2020.

As happened to many who had to return to their home countries at that time, Michel and his family resettled just north of Hamburg, near the Baltic Sea where they now work. But he says he’s stayed in touch with Vanuatu Volleyball and has continued to follow the team’s progress in the years since leaving.

Taking this opportunity to return, Michel and wife Anni have both taken advantage of available parental leave for six months, returning to Port Vila with 4-year-old Pepe and baby Anton (10 months), grabbing the chance to again embrace the Pacific lifestyle.

We took the chance without any hesitation, as we love the lifestyle and the people,” said Bargmann.

It’s also a great adventure for us as a family. Vanuatu is a very kids’ friendly country and our boys will have a great time.”

He said that while coaching is not a very family-friendly job, in Vanuatu he can combine it all and create great memories for his family.

It’s also an exciting opportunity to work again with Tini and Bella, as there is so much potential and there will be lots to come for them in the future,” he said.

His first big task required him to hit the ground running, overseeing the eight players (4 women, 4 men) competing in the AVC Continental Cup – Oceania, which was the first of three phases in the Olympic qualifying process, ahead of Paris 2024. The event was held in Port Vila in late August, VVF having secured the right to host this key regional tournament.

Having to hit the ground running, Michel was well supported by fellow coach and longtime friend of Vanuatu beach volleyball, and oft-used Australian-based coach Shanon Zunker, overseeing training together and splitting duties at game time.

Finals appearances for both teams was a strong result, and the battles which unfolded in both the men’s and the women’s matches against the New Zealand teams, were a credit to the coaching, and underlined the ongoing positive development of the Vanuatu squad as a whole.

No Time To Rest

Done and dusted in early September, the national squad then had to prepare for the upcoming Pacific Games, just six weeks down the track.

Within that timeframe, the women’s teams also had a competition schedule which included a couple of events in Australia and one in Thailand.

Michel Bargmann is a big supporter of the VVF women’s program, believing it underlines and advocates strongly for female empowerment within Vanuatu.

“Women are still very under-represented in politics and society in Vanuatu, but there is a younger generation that is growing in confidence and really stepping up,” he said.

“VVF pushes the message around this theme a lot, and our players have become key role models for this generation.” 

The 2023 Pacific Games signals a return to this arena for Bargmann, remembering the Vanuatu Women’s gold medal performance in 2019 in Apia, where he also had the coaching duties.

The obvious immediate goal for Bargmann, is to defend that gold medal in Honiara. Beyond that, it’s laying down the necessary preparations on the possible road to Paris 2024.

“In the midterm, developing our first team to perform best in the Continental Cup final phases in June 2024 is the priority,” he said.

“Long term, my aim is to support them reaching their career best level and sustain that for the 2028 and 2032 Olympic campaign.”

While his return is a relatively brief one, it is most welcome and very fitting that he will be there in Honiara with Tini and Bella, as they defend the Vanuatu Women’s Pacific Games BV title.