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Humber College gym was (kind of) where it all started.
A tall, lanky 16-year-old was playing club volleyball for the Durham Attack and coaches were out in the gym to watch him play. He was on the recruiting radar for a number of universities in the OUA.
The tall kid walked up to a coach and said, “Hello, Sir. I’m Alex Elliott.”
McMaster Head Coach Dave Preston chuckled.
“Alex, I’m very aware of who you are,” said Preston.
Elliott was shocked that the Head Coach of one of Canada’s best volleyball programs knew him by name. It meant so much to him.
“I love your program. I think a lot of Mac,” Elliott said.
Right when Elliott was offered the opportunity to play for his dream school, the Cobourg, ON native knew where he would spend the next five years of his life.
“I told myself that I was going to Mac. I didn’t say it right away because I didn’t want to be impulsive. I got offers from everywhere in Ontario, but I knew I wanted to be there. My heart was set,” said Elliott.
His strong ties to the school with the coaching staff, friends, and teammates influenced his decision. There was no other place for him.
“I applied to three different programs. That’s how badly I wanted to come here,” said Elliott.
Fast-forward half a decade and the 6’5” graduating middle leaves McMaster with a decorated career and many lifelong memories.
But the one that stands out the most comes from this year’s CIS championship weekend.
“The highlight of my whole career was to end it here at home. To play in the CIS championships in front of all the Mac fans is something I’ll remember for the rest of my life. Walking onto the floor with 2000 people cheering for us is a crazy feeling,” said Elliott.
“If you told me five years ago that I would be a part of four OUA title teams and four CIS medaling teams, I would’ve called you crazy,” Elliott said. “We would’ve loved to capture the championship at home, but I wouldn’t give this up for anything or any other school in Canada. I have no regrets. I love Mac.”
Elliott started at Mac as a Social Sciences student before transferring into Environmental Sciences. He is scheduled to graduate this spring.
Following his graduation, Elliott plans to head to teacher’s college to pursue his passion for teaching and coaching.
“I want to teach high school environmental science and geography. I want to coach too. I love sports. It doesn’t even have to be volleyball,” Elliott said.
His time at Mac has given him valuable insight into maximizing one’s university experience.
“Take advantage of every opportunity you’re given right off the bat. Don’t be shy. Get involved with everything you can. Sit near the front of your classes. Don’t be the guy near the back. Just be more engaged with everything.”
Elliott sees sport as bigger than a stage to showcase talent.
“It’s a platform you can use to develop life. That’s why I want to teach people that sport isn’t only about being physically active or being the best. Sports can teach you life lessons that you can hold onto forever,” Elliott said.
Away from the court, Elliott spent significant time doing community service during his time at Mac with Mac Athletes Care.
“I’ve always loved serving the community. Back home in Cobourg I was involved in the community up until grade 12 and then in my first year at Mac, I wasn’t involved in anything,” said Elliott. “There was a significant part of me I wasn’t showing so getting involved with Mac Athletes Care brought that part of me back out.”
Elliott would take time out of his week to just spend time with Hamilton youth and elderly citizens. Nothing complicated. He enjoyed learning to see the world through their eyes and wanted to be there for others if they needed anything. It’s very unique to see an athlete that legitimately wants to be around others, and to care for and support them in his own personal free time. It just goes to show that Elliott practices what he preaches about sport being more than a platform for talent, but a platform to impact the lives of others.
“He has been one of the greatest leaders that I have ever coached,” said Coach Dave Preston. “Alex is a great human being.”
Photo Credit: Monish Ahluwalia