Hockey season’s approaching an end, and while teams may be focused on points, there’s another game winding down: your billeting program. Smart teams are prepared to make sure it goes out with a W, too.
While some junior hockey organizations have a tradition of billet appreciation, many could use some improvement (or any kind of effort) to recognize this important group. According to a Billet Better poll, even teams in the most highly regarded development leagues fall short when it comes to a well-rounded billet program.
Recognizing billets is essential. After all, your players spend more hours in that home than they do at the rink, the gym, or on the team bus. A positive experience there affects a player’s mental outlook and game psychiatry in ways a coach may not have considered.
Whether your organization has a fine-tuned billet machine, or you’re realizing the need to strengthen that community, consider these principles:
The number one gripe of billet homes throughout North America? That their hockey organization doesn’t acknowledge them. It has nothing to do with compensation, either. Billet hosts expressed equal gratitude for (free) formal thank you notes as they did for gift cards or a catered dinner. These families give a lot to your organization in ways you never see. Give them a little credit—at least once during the year.
- Send a thank you message from the organization.* The more personal, the better.
- Don’t be generic. Your thank you should come directly from the coach, team director/owner, and/or the front office. Use the names of your players and hosts.
- Ask for feedback about the billeting experience. How did hosts feel about support from the team? What could the organization do differently?
Make Billet Appreciation a Big Deal
While budget isn’t the top priority for appreciation, if you can plan an event, do it. It might be a simple add-on to a regular-season game or a stand-alone event.
- Hold a “Billet Appreciation” game. Extend personal invitations to the billet hosts and give the whole billet family free admission.
- Recognize billet hosts by name during intermission. Having their players bring them on the ice for a round of applause is a nice touch. And it’s a great way to raise awareness for potential future hosts!
- Take photos of your players with their billet hosts. More on this later.
- Organize a billet recognition event like coffee and donuts, a potluck dinner, or build an alliance with a local restaurant.
- Post thanks and recognition to your billets on team social media accounts.
Involve Your Players’ Parents
- Contact the bio parents of each player and ask for a note or quote of thanks for the billeting host. Talk about a high-value recognition that’s completely free to you.
- If you hold a Billet Appreciation event, invite bio parents, too. It’s a great opportunity for parents of both sorts to meet and interact, especially if families are traveling far to see their son play.
- Ask bio parents to give feedback about the billeting experience. This can be one of your biggest selling points as an organization in future seasons.
Use Billet Appreciation as a Recruiting Opportunity
If you’ve been doing it well, your billet families are among your organization’s biggest fans—and possibly repeat player hosts. But they won’t be doing it forever. Always be on the lookout for potential billet candidates, even if they want to warm up to the idea while observing a season.
- Invite people who might consider billeting to your Billet Appreciation event. They’ll be able to see the relationships, emotions, and interactions firsthand.
- Ask current billet hosts to bring their friends and neighbors who might consider hosting one day.
- At your billet event, distribute flyers that explain what billeting is and a few details about how your program works.
- Schedule a short Q&A session during or after the Billet Appreciation event, while potential families are thinking about it. Encourage your players to help answer questions.
Billet Appreciation not only closes your season on a high note, it opens the door to positive relationships with families and players next year. Billet Better helps strengthen all of these relationships with packages that support Players, Billet Hosts, and Teams. Our new Build a Billet Community package includes many of the tools mentioned in this article, including a billet host survey, program flyer, recruiting tools, tips for using social media, and more. Download our Billet Survey for FREE!