We ran this article last summer and have been asked to run it again. Host families are one of the most important elements of the junior hockey developmental experience.
Hosting an athlete is an exciting and rewarding experience. When a family makes the choice to welcome a young athlete into their home, or more importantly, into their family, they have the opportunity to establish a wonderful friendship, while making a difference in the athlete's life.
Host families learn first-hand about the different lifestyle and culture that the athlete has grown up in. The host family and athlete share the evolving process of bringing the world closer together through sharing and friendship.
Like an exchange student program, teams are always in need of families that are willing to open their heart and home to a developing athlete. Families are interested in taking a supporting role in the player's overall development while both get memories that will last a lifetime.
In exchange for these gifts, the host family provides the athlete with room and board during his stay in the community.
Host families are the backbone of any team with out of town players. So much of the success is dependent on the environment created for the athletes by these very special families.
What is a normal host family?
A host family comes in many variations. There are different types of families, including single mothers or fathers with or without children at home, older couples with no children at home, and familes with children at home. All meet the minimum standard requirements, and must be able to provide a warm home and meals.
Families should treat the athlete as they would one of their own children. These athletes become like one of their own and it will be something that the families enjoy doing year after year.
Who are these players?
Turn your television to a favorite sports channel. There is a good chance that the athletes seen have, at some point in their development, lived away from home, in order to make it to the point they are now at. Some have gone to school or lived with other host families along the way.
Raw talent will only get an athlete so far. It takes determination, extremely hard work, and the ability to commit to the process of development in order to make it to the pinnacle of any sport. That development is dependent upon a solid foundation and that is where the value of a strong host family really shows.
How to become a host family
The first step to becoming a host family is to contact the local team. The team's housing coordinator should make an appointment to visit each home to get a first-hand feel for the lifestyle and accommodation for the prospective athlete. This is also the perfect time to go over the ground rules and expectations that both the team and host family will work with.
The team places athletes with volunteer host families who provide the athlete with a caring and safe home environment. Host families are able to experience firsthand the exciting experience of elite athlete development.
Each team is different, but each generally follows these minimum standards.
-Some type of orientation sessions
-Thorough screening of host familes, including in-home interviews and background checks.
-Continuous support and assistance from the housing coordinator and coaches. Team staff will be there to help each family select the athlete who will fit in with the family.
-Thoroughly screened young athletes who speak English and meet the requirements of the team that will ensure the success for the both the family and athlete.
- Does it cost anything to host a athlete?
Families will have the expense of food and housing, just as they would with any of their own teenager or young adult. Families are not responsible for the athlete's medical, education, or other incidental expenses.
Host families are generally never going to profit from the monthly stipend provided by the athlete. Let's face it, we are talking about a world class athlete that is in need of a unusual amount of calories in order to fuel his development. Host families do not get involved for the money, they do it for the experience. Many host families refuse to accept the monthly stipend as the athlete becomes a part of the family.
- I don't have any children at home. Can I still host?
There is no typical host family. Athletes are interested in a wide range of hosting situations. Some who come from large families would like to experience being the only child in a family.
- Can my own children benefit from hosting?
Many athletes indicate an interest in being placed in families with small children. The influence of an athlete's dedication and training will have a positive impact on younger children. Their interest, curiosity and acceptance of people different from themselves is strongest at a young age. They will look up to the athlete and that bond ultimately forms a lifelong relationship.
- Since my spouse and I both work, we wouldn't be home to entertain the athlete. Would this be a problem?
The typical family where the husband works and the wife stays home is becoming a relic of yesterday. In most two-parent families, both parents work. The athlete's own day is filled with training, work, or school.
- What does the athlete expect?
The athlete expects to be welcomed into a warm home. Flexibility, a sense of humor and the ability to help a young athlete adapt to a new family and lifestyle are also important qualities that athletes hope their host family will have.
- Can I host more than one athlete?
Yes. This is an ideal situation for both families and empty-nesters, Again, the experience will establish a lifetime of memories and friendships.
- What happens if my family and athlete just don't get along?
- The team's coaches and housing coordinator are always prepared to assist with any problems that might arise. In the event of a serious problem or conflict of personalities, the team removes the athlete for evaluation to determine if the athlete should be replaced or even removed from the team.
- Can I choose the athlete(s) I would like to stay with us?
Yes! The team should provide a review of the athletes available for the year. You will ultimately make the final selection.
Becoming a host family is not for everyone and families should not expect the athletes to be comfortable in an unstable situation. Host families should look at these athletes as an extension of their own family and not as a guest. The housing situation should be an enjoyable and positive experience for both the host family and the athlete.
Like any situation, boundaries and expectations need to be well established by the team and host family BEFORE the athlete moves in. It is important to remember that these athletes are going to look to the host parents to act as thier own parents. Respect and consideration is the highest priority.