Billets

Billeting is an essential ingredient of any junior hockey team. Parents entrust a team with the responsibility of caring for their most valued possession; THEIR SON. This is a responsibility that the Beaver Valley Nitehawks do not take lightly, and one that receives our utmost attention. The Nitehawks Billet Coordinators, Tracee Ross and Danielle Sedgewick are both experienced billet parents with busy families. The hockey rink is their second home. Tracee and Danielle place each player in “a home away from home”. The success behind our billeting program is communication. All billet families and players have an outline of responsibilities that they agree to, and adhere to. These include meals, curfew, house chores, and social responsibility. We expect our players to be positive role models within the billet family and in the community. There are many long lasting friendships created from the billet experience. We encourage you to contact the Beaver Valley Nitehawks if you may consider billeting in the future.

 


Just found this interesting article about billeting:

Becoming family: Wenatchee Wild organization billet families more than just a temporary place to crash

by David Heiling
Printed in The Wenatchee World, July 28, 2016

If you were to tell Cris and Verlynna Engel five years ago they would soon become billet parents for the Wenatchee Wild hockey team, they would have laughed in your face.

It’s a serious decision to become a billet parent (billet being synonymous with host) — a decision that shouldn’t be taken lightly. Chances are that the newest addition to a billet home will eat his own weight in food within the first two weeks. He will occupy a section of your home that once was dubbed “the man cave” or “the den” or “the kitchen.” He will be tired and sore from practice and busy with schoolwork most every night.

And that’s what makes billeting such a rewarding experience.

Fast forward five years and the Engels are making their return trip back from Wisconsin. The purpose of their journey? To see a certain someone who once lived with them: former Wild player Ryan Gotelaere.

Gotelaere, who is now playing with the University of Wisconsin-River Falls, was one of two skaters who stayed with the Engels during the 2013-14 hockey season.

“We didn’t know anything about hockey when we decided to give this a try,” Verlynna Engel said. “I was like, OK, we’ll do it for a year. So we did it for a year. …This upcoming year will be our fourth. Their families become our family.”

Positive people in all walks of life can be successful billets. For the Engels, they knew what they were doing was right a few weeks into their first year.

“It clicked when we missed Ryan’s first goal,” Verlynna Engel said. “We said right then and there, ‘We can never miss another game.’ Our kids never played sports so it gives us a chance to experience something new in our 40s. The connections you make and the relationships you build … It’s life changing.”

What makes the billet-player relationship a good one is balance.

“There has to be some boundaries. Billets need to know there are boundaries and know when to give the player space,” current Wenatchee Wild player Austin Chavez said. “My family was great because they gave me my own area when I needed it. They let me do my own thing, but they were still all about me. They gave me a pre and postgame meal every day. They did the little things, common courtesy things that made me feel welcome.”

Chavez, who lived with Rick and Lisa Vanwell, stressed that the Wild players are in Wenatchee to play hockey first, second and third. But without their new mentors, that wouldn’t be possible.

“They play a pretty big role in bringing a positive mindset,” Chavez said. “If you’re dreading where you’re at, you’re not going to perform well. I get to hang out with them a little bit, take a nap and when I wake up, pregame dinner is ready to go. I don’t have to worry about that. That’s a huge deal and it helps me prepare, because my mind is on the game not on food or other things. Even during the week after practices, they have food there for me and are always welcoming.”

Former three-year Wild vet and Wenatchee legend Mike Coyne mirrored Chavez’s thoughts about what it takes to be a successful billet. Coyne, who lived with Jana Roy during his first two seasons in Wenatchee and Jeff and Rosie White during his third campaign, said a good billet can help a boy turn into a young man and can actually make them perform better on the ice.

“I think providing nutritious meals when player is home, having a bedroom where the player can have some privacy and being active in the player’s life go a long way,” Coyne said. “I think successful billets help a player feel more welcome to the town and the team and also help eliminate distractions which allows the player to focus on his game.”

The Wild are not the only team that needs compassionate and caring billet parents/families. The Wild’s feeder team — the U18 Wenatchee Wolves, — also travel during the season and have players needing places to call home. Jill Leonard has been a fan of the Wild organization since its inception and opens her home to Wolves players. Leonard and her husband Tom Leonard don’t do it for the $300/month stipend the organization offers to its billet families. They don’t do it for pats on the back or praise. Instead, the couple hopes to provide helpful guidance and a nurturing atmosphere as these future hockey stars start a critical time in their adolescent lives.

“I kind of knew what to expect in a way, my husband was hesitant,” Jill Leonard said. “I have a 7-year-old son and we both thought this would be a great experience for him as a mentoring tool. To these young men that come into our home, I am a second nurturer. I’m not mom but I work closely with mom and I reassure the parents that their boys are good and taken care of. Tom looks at it as a place for them to be while they get to their next step. We try to give them an opportunity to reach their dreams.”

Billeting is a two-way street. On one hand you have the billet family — people within the community who open their domestic domecile to complete strangers. On the other hand you have teenage boys — hockey players from all over the world who get ready to spend months and perhaps even years with complete strangers. At first glance, one might think the player gets most of the perks. In the end, though, the pairing is mutually beneficial.

“I keep in touch with them every day,” former Wenatchee goalie Chase Perry said of his billet parents, Matt and Sharon Seguin. “Every day.”

“You think the housing family is doing the most giving, but the kid really becomes part of the family,” Wild coach Bliss Littler said. “(The billet families) really enjoy having the kids and they are sad to see them go. It really is a genuine and wholesome relationship. After the players move on, these kids make cross-country trips to reconnect with their billet families. The families travel all over the place to watch their new family members play.”

The Wild organization is always looking for billet families. You don’t have to be a hockey fan. You don’t have to be rich. But if you do take the plunge to become a billet parent, make sure you are ready to welcome a new person into your family. And be ready for some painful goodbyes.

“When (former Wolves player) Cam (DuFault) left, I closed his bedroom door and did not go down there for three days,” Jill Leonard said. “It affected me more than I thought it would. That is advice I would give the oncoming billets: be prepared to get attached. It’s sad because he’s never coming back, but I wouldn’t change it for anything.”