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Ben Tonin remains involved in Mohawk College sports

From athlete to assistant coach and now member of the Hall of Fame Committee, Ben Tonin is a household name when it comes to Mohawk College sports.

“I was recruited for the volleyball team, so that was one of the main drivers for me to go [to Mohawk],” Tonin said. “I was also a Hamilton Mountain boy. I grew up right around the corner from the college, so it was a kind of nice, close to home thing.”

Tonin first joined the men’s volleyball team in 2013 when he enrolled as a student in Business Administration. After graduating in 2016, he decided to return for an additional year of studies in Business Analysis, giving him the opportunity to continue playing volleyball at Mohawk for another season.

Trevor McLaughlin, who played alongside Tonin for four years, described his former teammate as both a team player and a leader.

“What always stood out about Ben was just his willingness to do whatever it took to win,” McLaughlin said. “He was just always willing to take a setback if it was good for the team. He was always that vocal guy, he was always the guy that calmed everyone down.”

Recalling moments from their time playing together, McLaughlin said Tonin went above and beyond to make their experience on the team better.

“We were always roommates together on road trips. I’m a big chocolate milk guy so he would always show up to road trips with a nice jug of chocolate milk for me to make sure I’m in a good mood,” McLaughlin said with a chuckle.

Ben Tonin was named captain in his second year with the Mountaineers.

Tonin’s quickly stood out as a leader and was given the role of team captain in his second year of playing for Mohawk, a title he held for the remainder of his career as a student athlete. The decision to make him the team captain was a group effort by his teammates and former coach Matthew Schnarr.

“In terms of what he did so well [as captain], he’s got a natural love and passion for others,” Schnarr said. “The neat part about him is he has a way of demanding of his teammates but also ensuring they felt supported and trusted by him.”

After four years of playing, Tonin became the assistant coach for the men’s volleyball team, a role he described as a great experience.

“I was assistant coach for one year with the men’s program, and then my old coach, he moved on to the women’s program. After I did a year with the men I joined him and assisted him for three years,” Tonin said. 

“It was a really seamless transition into coaching for me,” he added. “Being a part of the men’s program was interesting because I was coaching some of the guys I had played with … I actually coached with one of my rivals from when I played. He went to Niagara College and he came in as head coach and I assisted him, so it was fun to get to work with someone who I competed against for four years.”

Tonin moving directly from player to coach was no surprise to Schnarr.

“By the time his playing career was done he was pretty much an assistant coach on the court, so it was a pretty easy transition,” Schnarr said.

In 2017 Tonin was asked to join the college’s Hall of Fame Committee. The committee meets regularly to recognize those involved with the Mohawk athletics community in the categories of athlete, builder, coach and team.

“We do have some criteria we go through when we’re meeting,” Tonin explained. “Anyone can nominate someone and we can kind of parse through the nominations and figure out who we want to consider seriously for the next induction ceremony.”

“It’s not just athletics necessarily. Well it is athletics-based, but you don’t need to be an athlete to get in,” Tonin added. “It can be someone who is a coach or an athletic doctor, or just someone who has a big involvement in athletic success and helping build programs and create inclusivity, so it’s kind of an open floor. It’s a good thing to be a part of.”

Following the years he dedicated to playing and coaching volleyball at Mohawk, Tonin found a career at Hiller Golf that meshed two of his passions, sports and business.

Ben Tonin now works for Hiller Golf, a company that specializes in indoor golf simulators.

“I got in contact, through one of my old volleyball coaches, that his neighbour was starting his own company in the golf industry, building golf simulators,” Tonin said. “I’ve been with him since 2020 and we now run a pretty big business of building golf simulators all over Canada.”

“It’s cool because I’m still involved in sport,” he added. “It’s not volleyball like I’m used to. I did grow up playing everything, but now I have a new passion and love for the sport of golf.”

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