By Thomas Becker
Not everyone gets a chance to live their dream.
But Shanda Mosher-Gallant is one of the lucky ones.
The 25-year-old's passion for the sport of rugby has taken her from the small town of Urbainville, P.E.I. to Vancouver, B.C., where she's become a household name as a referee.
"Anyone who knows me knows my favourite expression when asked how I am doing is 'living the dream.' I am in fact living my dream," she said.
Mosher-Gallant took up the sport with no real idea what it was, other than the fact that it's a contact sport. The passion would only grow once she made her way to high school at Three Oaks Senior High.
"I fell in love with it after my first game. It's a pretty powerful game in that way," she said. "You put your heart, soul and body on the line for your team, and for me, that was the selling point."
She'd find any way possible to be around the sport, including playing at the provincial level each summer between school years. After high school, Mosher-Gallant committed to UPEI where she continued to hone her craft, not only as a player, but a budding referee in the making.
"UPEI rugby literally helped me become who I am today."
Former UPEI rugby coach and PEI Rugby Hall of Famer, Shannon Atkins, was a key part in that and played a pivotal part in Mosher-Gallant's life, teaching her much more than skills on the field ever could.
"I learned that hard work is key to accomplishing any goal you set out for yourself as long as your honest with what it is you want to accomplish," she said.
Atkins nurtured Mosher-Gallant's fascination with the sport. She helped her find sponsors to fund refereeing and coaching courses that would pay dividends later on.
"UPEI and the opportunities given to me by Shannon helped me get the experience and exposure to find my dream and courage to go for it."
Refereeing became a way to stay involved in rugby during the offseason as a player. She used the high school seasons to coach and referee, eventually earning her Level 2 certificate (there are three levels) in both fields.
"Refereeing is such an individual practice, it's like nothing I've done before," she said. "My favourite part about it is even after your best games, there's always something to improve or work on.
In 2016, Mosher-Gallant graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Chemistry with a minor in Sociology and still found time to play the sport she loved. That summer, she broke her right hand playing as a member of the provincial team against New Brunswick, signalling an end to her tournament. It could've been an abrupt ending, but rugby was far too important to her to give up on.
"Refereeing only started to be my centre of focus after I broke my hand," she said. "I then strapped a whistle to my healing hand and refereed at the Eastern Canadian Age-Grade Tournament."
That paved the way to her first age grade nationals in Toronto. Since then, she's been invited to several national events – U19 men, senior women, CIS/U Sports – and a few international events in a supporting official role – Langford and Vancouver HSBC Sevens Series and Major League Rugby. Last September, she moved to British Columbia for more rugby opportunities and managed to earn four Men's Premier League games, as well as the Women's Premier Final (which was held on May 5), in her first season on the West Coast.
"It was pretty awesome to get to experience a final my first year in B.C. I worked hard all year and I think people saw and appreciated that."
As for what's to come, the opportunities are truly endless.
"I'm hoping to referee whatever's available to me and be the best I can be. Not sure where that'll take me but I'm up for it."