Spiking success: Charlie Ellinas (Year 3 MinE), a beach volleyball player, balances academia and sports

Student profile: Good digs leads to netting beach volleyball’s international stage for this Lassonde Mineral Engineering student.  

Charlie Ellinas spikes the ball as he competes in the 2023 Beach Nationals Volleyball Tournament in Toronto, August 2023. (Photo by Ottawa Sports Photography)

Charlie Ellinas (Year 3 MinE) finds success playing beach volleyball while simultaneously taking on the Lassonde Mineral Engineering program at U of T Engineering. CivMin chats with Charlie to see how he’s balancing the pursuit of competitive sports, a demanding academic program and life on campus. Setting himself up for breakpoint, Charlie rallies to ace this year.

Please tell us a little bit about yourself.
My name is Charlie Ellinas and I’m from Etobicoke – I’ve lived there my whole life. Ever since I was a child, I have always loved playing sports. Throughout primary school, and beyond, I played many sports like baseball, soccer, hockey… basically everything I could. Then, when I got to middle school, I was introduced to volleyball.  

My mom played volleyball at the University of Waterloo. I wound up playing for the same club she played for and even had the same coach as her. Then, after some time, I started playing beach volleyball. I played high level baseball but eventually stopped playing because I fell in love with beach volleyball and have played it every summer since. 

How did you make the transition from indoor volleyball to beach volleyball?  
It wasn’t too hard for me because I have always been athletic. I like it more than indoor volleyball because you are forced to rely more on your own athleticism. Since it is just you and your partner, you can have a greater impact on winning or losing. And I really enjoy that about it! 

CivMin student Charlie Ellinas (Year 3 MinE) at the Lassonde Mining Building at the University of Toronto. (Photo by Phill Snel, CivMin/University of Toronto)

“With all the electric cars, mining is going to be even more important. Everything is either caught, grown or mined, so mining will definitely open doors for the future.”

What drew you to U of T?
The main reason I came to U of T was because I wanted to stay at home – I still live at home.  Also, U of T is one of the best schools in the world with Engineering ranked 20th and 10th for mining engineering. I originally had no idea that I wanted to go into Min. I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do but applied to Engineering because I knew it would set me up for the future.  

My parents really pushed me to go into Mining because they said, “With all the electric cars, mining is going to be even more important. Everything is either caught, grown or mined, so mining will definitely open doors for the future.”  

Another thing that drew me to Min is the potential scholarships. My first year I got the Lassonde Scholarship, which was a scholarship for entering the Min program. The next year I was awarded the Reginald J. Redrupp award. This year, I was awarded the Shell Canada scholarship. Something about Min that has been great is there is more of an opportunity to be awarded scholarships as it is the discipline with the fewest number of students.  

You’re in your third year now. Did you go to U of T Camp [CME358 – Civil & Mineral Practicals] last summer? How did you find the experience?
I was happy heading up to Camp. I arrived late, because earlier that day my beach partner and I won the under 20 Beach Volleyball Canadian National Championships. I couldn’t sleep that first night because I was so excited about our victory. I was a bit skeptical of camp – I thought, whoa, this is going to be a lot of work and I wasn’t enjoying it at the start. But then, once we really got going, I started to embrace it more. I got a lot closer with many of the mineral engineering students and even many of the civil engineers. Overall, I found survey camp to be a great bonding experience. 

Charlie Ellinas bumps the ball as he competes in the 2023 Beach Nationals Volleyball Tournament in Toronto, August 2023. (Photo by Michael Chisholm)

There are three units – how did you fare? A lot of group work and you’re getting experience with fieldwork as well. How did that go?  
The first unit we had was the topographic mapping. I think it may have been the hardest station. Because I arrived late, I ended up getting placed in a group of four instead of three, which helped split the workload. We also had a member who surveyed over the summer. This was helpful, as he taught us how to set up the total station and the tripods – this gave us a big advantage over the other groups.   

Are you involved in anything else at school? Any clubs or groups?
Yes, I went to the [Canadian] Mining Games this year with other members of Min Club. It was my first time and a great experience. My events included the jackleg [drilling] competition, surveying – of which I already had a bit of knowledge because of Survey Camp – and the mine rescue. The jackleg was very physically demanding, and the mine rescue event involved climbing a rope, breaking down a door while using a crowbar, and using CPR knowledge. 

Charlie Ellinas (R) and partner Colin Lash with their medals for winning the U20 (under 20) category at the 2023 Beach Nationals Volleyball Tournament in Toronto, August 2023. The tournament is the biggest of the year as the winner got to represent Canada in Thailand at the U21 Beach Volleyball World Championships.(Photo by Michael Chisholm)

How do you balance your heavy academic engineering workload and keep up with your athletic pursuits? The beach volleyball competitions are usually outside of school and its schedule. Do the events take you to different places and work with your otherwise demanding schedule?
Volleyball competitions mainly occur during the summer. Because of Ontario’s climate there is really only the Beach Volleyball National Training Centre in Downsview, and I can’t access the centre very often during the academic year due to the timing of classes, so I primarily play throughout the summer months. However, earlier this year, my beach partner and I won the Under 20 National Championships. As a result, we got to represent Canada in Thailand at the Under 21 World Championships in November [2023].  

Due to this, we had a rigorous training schedule from September through to the tournament date in November. The tournament was held in Roi Et which is a small town in Thailand. It was a great experience because I got to play against the best players in the world. The residents of Roi Et also loved the tournament as they don’t often see many big sporting events like this. I also had never signed so many autographs or taken so many pictures with people before. It was amazing to be a part of it. 

Is there a place on campus that is your go-to study spot, or a place to meet up with friends?
On days I’m at school, where there are large breaks in between classes, I’ll normally spend time in the [Min Club] common room. I’ll be there talking to some of my friends in my program – upper years and some lower years as well. When I am doing schoolwork, I normally go to the fourth floor of the Lassonde Mining Building. The Mining Building is great because there are not many people, it’s quiet, and you can easily study there. 

Do you have any favourite courses, professors, or somebody who made an impact on you?
My favourite year so far has been third year, as almost all of our courses were strictly about mining. I really enjoyed the underground mining course with Professor John Hadjigeorgiou. I just had the exam for it today and I felt like I learned a lot from the course. The professor taught me more about the industry, the expectations, and potential job positions. I also enjoyed the first-year [MIN191] Introduction to Mineral Engineering course. I knew very little about mining before starting my program so this course opened my eyes to the industry.    

You’re finishing third year now. Are you considering a PEY Co-op placement? [professional experience year]
I am planning on taking a PEY placement. However, I do not have a position yet because I’m looking to start working in September as I don’t want to miss out on the beach season since it’s such a short season. Most of the positions will be released sometime around the beginning of May so I am going to start applying for positions when my exams end. I’m also hoping to get a fly-in fly-out position.  

Do you have a unique talent or some other special hobby or skill or something that’s unusual? Something we wouldn’t otherwise know about?
I played musical instruments throughout middle and high school. I played the piano from a young age and I was in the string orchestra and played the violin from grade six to 12. I attended a music school, John G. Althouse, from grade six to eight since it was my home school. For high school I attended Richview Collegiate Institute which also had a music program. I played on many sports teams throughout middle and high school, and I was even recognized as the Athlete of the Year in my senior year of high school.  

“If I were you, I would look for a fly-in fly-out position and travel all over the world on my time off.”    

What might you be looking forward to in a career in mineral engineering?  
One thing I am looking forward to is travelling. With mining, you can travel all over the world, especially with fly-in, fly-out positions. I’m interested in doing this at the start of my career. Fly-in fly-out rotations involve working 12-hour days when you’re on. I remember Professor John Harrison saying to us, “If I were you, I would look for a fly-in fly-out position and travel all over the world on my time off.” 

By Phill Snel

*ED NOTE: Several volleyball puns were used in this article. How many can you spot?