The Billeting Experience
The billeting experience throughout a players OHL career can be a stressful and emotional challenge, but the overall impact on the players and the families is commendable. There have been many families in the Owen sound area who have taken on the task of inviting an Attack player to live with them for the year. We were privileged to speak with Kim Burns who has hosted Attack players for 6 years like Daniel Catenacci, Zack Roberts, Logan LeSage, and Keenan Reynolds. She has enjoyed every player in her home. Ethan Burroughs who is currently playing for the Attack and Markus Phillips a former Attack star, have lived with Jane and Greg McIvor of Owen Sound. Both sides of the billeting experience are proudly represented, and have some advice to share for people who are looking at becoming a billet family.
The players first week moving into a new home with a new family can be exciting and scary. There are training camps, interviews, team bonding activities, getting ready to join a new school, meeting the kids, getting to know the family rules and routine...etc. For the families, it's getting to know a new person, giving them space, teaching the house rules, learning what food they like to eat and what they need to eat, and building trust with the player. Even though the beginning of the journey can be a whirlwind, it always has long term benefits.
Markus Phillips says: "They become a second family. They (Jane and Greg) drive over two hours to come watch me play, even when I was traded to another team for a bit. They took me out for dinner and it made me feel at home."
Markus and Ethan both agreed it takes just over a month to get comfortable with the new family and to get into routine with them. Having kids and pets is valued to players because it gives them someone to hangout with during the down time. After a long day at the arena and always being on the run, it gives them peace of mind knowing there is a family at the house who supports them and cares for them.
Each billet family is different in many ways. Some families give the players chores similar to their own children's chores, some families only give a few simple requests like picking up after themselves. The one thing to remember is that as a player you have to be able to clean up after yourself. It's the little things you do at your billet house that don't seem like a lot, but mean a lot to your host family.
Ethan explains: "I would do my own laundry, try to help with dishes, take out the garbage and make sure that my space was as clean as possible, stuff like that."
Not only do the players have to respect the rules of the house, but the host family also needs to respect the needs of the player as well. This is a new and exciting journey for a players first time moving away from home and time in the OHL, so having some quiet time to reflect on events is important.
"After a long day at practice or a game or even just at school and the arena, sometimes I just want to be by myself for a bit. It's nothing against the family and we know how important is to be involved with stuff going on in the house but we need some time to chill and just be alone", says Markus.
There is nothing wrong with having some separation between hockey family and time for yourself, but as Kim Burns says, "...we try to make sure the players don't sneak off to their rooms all the time and that they join us for family dinners. We want to make sure they are doing okay and try to encourage them to be around us. They don't need to feel alone all the time so we try to get them involved as much as possible and we understand they need to have some quiet alone time as well."
As the season goes on, players grow and so does their appetite. Ethan encourages host families to have lots of healthy options in the fridge for meals and snacks. The boys are given meals plans and all of the host families are great to follow them, even when the players don't want too. Kim's experience with Logan LeSage is a prime example of this, "Logan wasn't a huge vegetable guy. So at dinner I would sit with him until he ate his vegetables. He didn't like it, but he did eat them."
Hosting a player is really not as hard as many think and there are wonderful memories created with each player. Ethan recalls, "going out to dinner with Jane and Greg is one of my best memories. We would go out to Boston Pizza and Greg would get this big pasta thing and he would dump the whole thing of parmesan onto the pasta, it was pretty funny."
Kim also reminisced about her time with Zack Roberts, "He would take the kids out to Tim Hortons for hot chocolates now and then", which is a great way to integrate yourself into a family and creates a special memory for the kids. Kim also spoke about how proud she was of all of the players. "one of our proudest moments was when Daniel Catenacci got selected to go to the world junior camp in Calgary, we were very proud of him."
The little things like going out to dinner, watching TV, playing board games, walking the dogs, having the families come to games, and going on family outings makes the experience even more enjoyable. Both sides are able to let down their guard and enjoy every moment with each other. Some players struggle with home sickness but as long as the players are kept busy and welcomed into the families as one of their own, it goes a long way.
Some advice from both players and hosts is acknowledging respect and the rules in the house. The down time, diet, and to have an open mind when it comes to billeting is very important as well. Not everyone's experience will be the same but it is up to you how you want that experience to be. Things like participating in on family game nights, watching your players games, and supporting each other throughout the journey is key to having a close relationship with each other.
Hosting a player can be an incredibly rewarding experience and the Attack is grateful for every family that has taken in players and shown them compassion and support. We look forward to what this year brings!
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- The Billeting Experience - Owen Sound Attack
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