Living with a billet family is an adjustment. And depending on the person and family, that adjustment period can be short or long.
It took David Chisholm of Okanagan Hockey Ontario (OHO) three months to feel comfortable when he moved away from home in Thunder Bay for the first time to Banff, Alta.
“I was a shy guy,” says Chisholm, 16. “If you are outgoing, you like to talk a lot, then it’s different for everyone.”
Since returning to Ontario to join OHO in Whitby, it has taken Chisholm less time to get comfortable with his new family. The family he is with is really good, and he describes them as nice people. He takes the initiative to get involved with their family activities.
“Their son plays hockey, so I go watch their games,” he says.
Chisholm says there can be moments a person feels nervous to ask their billet parents for certain things, but he says they shouldn’t because the family is great. He has grown as a person and become more independent. Chisholm helps around the house doing laundry and other chores and has noticed himself maturing.
The family is also willing to help any way they can. If a tutor is unavailable, Chisholm’s billets help him with his school work. He feels at home.
“They try to make me feel as comfortable as I can,” he says, adding they watch his games. “I try to show off a little bit.”
It has been different for Tuomas Bowland to be away from family in Chamcook, N.B. Living in a home with a new family with their own routines and way of doing things created an adjustment period.
“It’s fine after a couple of weeks,” says Bowland, 18.
He views living with billets as a middle step between staying at home and living by himself. He is given responsibilities to help at home putting dishes away, making sure he does his laundry and puts it away.
Simon Harkness, who grew up in Calgary, faces the same expectations in helping with chores.
Cleaning up after himself, walking the dog and mowing the lawn has helped him develop responsibility.
Harkness says his billet parents have eased him into everything making for a positive environment.
“My billet brother really helps me with any problems I may have to do with the area or the school. He already knows how it works,” says Harkness.
Staying with a billet family has been different than his own, but Harkness finds them to be supportive. They are helping him grow as a person as he faces new situations in a new city.
“It has made me a bit more mature,” he says. “I have to face problems myself instead of getting help from my family.”
The family also supports Harkness so he does well in school and hockey.
“They definitely are pushing me and wanting me to keep going, wanting me to do as best as I can,” he says.
If you are interested in learning more about billeting or would like to register to welcome a student athlete into your home as a billet family for the upcoming season, please contact: Paul Pascuzzi, OHO General Manager, at PaulPascuzzi@okanaganhockey.com.
Going to OHA was one of the greatest decisions I have made for my hockey career. OHA prepared me for the next level. Skating, strength, speed, conditioning. I wouldn't be the player and person that I am today if I hadn’t chosen OHA."