Tuesday, December 23, 2014

To Billet or Not to Billet, Vol. 2


This second installment shares the story of another family who made the choice to allow their elite-level goalie to begin billeting at quite a young age.  Read on for their thoughts on what they gave up, what they gained, and whether they thought it was worth the sacrifice...

N's Story:  A Player's Insight

Billeting as a hockey player is almost essential if you want to make it to the next level. Even though billeting brings many benefits and opportunities to you as a hockey player, it is always and will always be hard to be away from your parents.  For me, I had to billet sooner than most as a twelve-year-old, second-year peewee. Luckily the first year was a transition year where I would fly or drive down from my home in San Fransisco to Los Angeles every Friday and come back every Monday. During that year it wasn't bad because I was with my parents half of the time and playing hockey half the time. 

The next year was much harder because I was thirteen and moved half way across the country to play for Belle Tire in Detroit. The year was extremely tough because I didn't get to see my family more than 5-6 times the entire year.  That, coupled with having my coach as a host family did not mix well with my emotions. Although the home life wasn't amazing, I loved being able to go to a different school with my roommate because I got to meet tons of new people and everyone thought what we did and where we were from was so cool. 

Several different issues on that team made me decide to switch teams after that and I chose to play in Chicago for two years; the first for the Chicago Mission and second for the Chicago Fury. I had a lot of fun these years both with hockey and with friends and team mates. Both teams I played on had a lot of success but during the end of the year with the Fury I started to slack off, partially because I got lazy and also because I didn't really have a parental figure to guide me because our billet dad was more of a buddy figure than a parent which brings me to what a personally believe a billet family should do to have a good relationship with the player.

When I was younger, like during the twelve-to-fourteen range, I really wish my host families were more like a family to be than a rent-a-room but sadly that's how it was, I never felt wanted when really all I wanted was a family. When you live away from home you do start to grow up a lot faster than other children your age and so I believe that at the 15-20 range a billet family should be almost a half family, where you sit down and eat dinner together, play with their children, have birthdays and holidays together, but yet never feel obligated to do it. Players have rough days with school, hockey and friends and it can wear a person down physically but mostly mentally so sometimes alone time can be just what a player needs.

I have now billeted for seven of my eighteen years of life and really with every positive comes a negative so it depends how much you care about the game. My family has never had me around for any of the big moments in my life and throughout the years I would say that I have seen one parent at least one weekend out of every six weeks. Every time I come home my room doesn't feel like home, hotels and different houses around the country do because that's where I have spent my entire teenage life. I feel like I barely know my younger brother and I haven't ever been there for him because I've always been away. If hockey is the thing you love most in the world and a hockey player is what you want to be defined as, then billeting is for you. The experiences that I have had far outnumber anyone that I know at my age. I have done things that I will be proud of my entire life but it was at a price. For me, that's a price I would be willing to pay again and again for the experiences that I have had.

C’s Story:  A Mother’s Perspective

It seems like such an exciting endeavor; someone from a “famous” team has asked your child to play for them and move away from home. Whose ego wouldn’t be stroked by that? My son moved away the summer between 7th and 8th grade, never to return home again, except for vacation. He’d accomplished everything he could, hockey wise, in California – winning 3rd at Nationals. He wanted to move someplace where he could play hockey every day and California just isn’t that place. 7 schools in 5 years was a lot, but it was my boy’s dream, so we supported it. It’s easy to look back now that he’s graduated and say what we would have done differently.

If you are thinking of billeting, my first suggestion would be to NEVER have your child live with the coach! It’s not a good mix because your child never gets any down time from the game. Secondly, sit down with your child and determine what’s important to both of you when searching for a “family” for your child. You need to find someone who will love them and for all intents and purposes, raise them, like you would want. Your child WILL get sick, how will the “other mom” take car of him? Your child might get in trouble at school. How will the “other parents” deal with it? Constant communication is the key. Texting and Face-Timing with your child and with the family are a must!

Third, the billeting experience is very emotional for everyone involved. Your family dynamic is changed forever. Sibling relationships are different because there isn’t that daily interaction. Often, parents have to split time to visit the hockey player so the other can stay home with the siblings. It’s not only a sacrifice for the player, but for the entire family. My youngest son just wrote about the defining moment in his 15 years of life – it was when he was 9 and his brother moved away to play hockey.

I recently asked my goalie if he regretted moving away. Although there have been many ups and downs and things haven’t gone how we always would have liked, he said he wouldn’t change a thing. He’s experienced more in his 18 years than many people will in their lifetimes. My only hope is that when we look back years from now, that we can say we made the right decision and our son reached his dreams.

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