Erin Sand: Officiating a Community
By: Simone Cseplo
This article is part of the “Women in Biathlon Series”. With excellence and leadership at the forefront of Biathlon Canada’s values, we will be featuring some of the great female athlete, coaches, officials and volunteers that support us in sport and help build our close-knit community. Follow us on social media @biathloncanadaofficial to keep up with each story as we hear from women across the country.
Being an official can sometimes be a hard and thankless job, but without them races wouldn’t be able to happen. Their job is to closely watch each athlete; to ensure the race is run fairly; and to make sure everyone is following the rules.
Despite the pressure that can come with it, like making the right judgements or ensuring everything is done by the book, it’s a duty Erin Sand takes in stride and a duty she also takes extreme pride in.
“In 2008, I was recruited to help with the Canada Winter Games in Halifax,” said Sand. After seeing the athletes perform, being a part of the welcoming community that is biathlon and experiencing how two different sports could be combined into one, she was hooked.
“The sport itself is so intriguing. You need to be fluent in skiing and be able to control yourself athletically, especially when you’re heading into the range. It’s those two components of just being so strong and so skilled—it was really a big awe for me.”
It’s easy to draw parallels between officials and athletes. They both know the ins and outs of the sport, and are constantly aware of what’s going on around them. For instance, just as athletes need to focus on what they’re trying to do, whether it be the rhythm of their skis hitting the snow, or slowing and controlling their breathing rounding into the range—officials must watch everything from when they line up athletes, to the final moments until they cross the finish line.
Not only are both athletes and officials focused on the intricacies of the sport and what’s at stake, but they also see improvements in their performance according to Sand. As a technical delegate—one of the top tiers of officiating—she says she’s grown in ways she thinks wouldn’t have happened had she not taken the opportunity to be an official at the Canada Winter Games thirteen years ago.
“I gained a level of self-confidence growing through this program [as an official] and I gained knowledge in many other aspects in my life. As you go up the ladder, you gain more knowledge and experience. You have people that look up to you and ask you questions. So, it feels like a sense of accomplishment.”
Above all, Sand says it’s the sense of community and family values that draw her to the sport.
“The overall camaraderie in this type of environment—no matter who you are, you are accepted, and you are considered,” Sand tells Biathlon Canada.
The biathlon community has created bonds and memories with other officials, staff and athletes from all over the world. Appreciative of the position she is in, Sand says it has afforded her opportunities and experiences others dream of.
“One of the coolest things about being able to be an official is working with IBU World Cups and being able to work at high level competitions, and the amount of different athletes, officials and people you get to meet […] I actually got a bib from one of the athletes at the World Cup after the competition as a keepsake. We don’t get a lot of World Cups [in Canada], so it was really nice to have that opportunity.”
Sand says once she was in the biathlon community, there was no going back. It was the feeling of having a second family, a purpose and place of belonging and acceptance.
All it took was that one experience in 2008 to show her how amazing the biathlon community is, and she wouldn’t have it any other way.
“Once you get a taste of it, you enjoy it—it’s kind of like getting a taste of a chocolate bar. You just start to love it and you start to get to know people and build a community and family.”
If you would like to read more stories like this, check out our Women’s Initiative page on our website.