By John Andreoli
Often the quest to excel is carried out quietly. At all levels of organized sports, athletes can go about their daily lives in relative anonymity. Their goals and the path to achieving them may differ, but their attitudes and dedication are much the same. In this highly specialized world, it almost always takes extreme personal sacrifice to rise amongst the ranks.
For the members of the Wilkes-Barre Scranton Knights hockey team the struggle entails another often worrisome detail many athletes are lucky to take for granted—a place to live and three square meals a day. Young players who hail from various parts of the United States and all over the world forego many of the luxuries most teenagers take for granted in their pursuit of a college scholarship or a possible career in hockey. Cyber schooling is often sandwiched amongst multiple daily practices all while being far from the comforts of home. While social media can be a great help, long distance relationships with friends and family in different states and countries can be difficult to maintain. Homesickness can be a daily tribulation that many of us are fortunate enough to not have to consider.
Roseann Zubrickas is the Billet Coordinator for the Wilkes-Barre Scranton Knights and places young athletes with families around the area. The young men, generally in their mid-to-late teens, are responsible for getting themselves back and forth to practice and games at the Revolution Ice Centre as well as whatever costs are associated with personal care and/or luxury items. What they require is simple: A bed, a place to keep their clothes, and three meals per day. They do require internet access to keep up with their studies, as well.
While being close to their practice facilities is most convenient, players in the past have lived as far as a 40-minute drive away. Families that sponsor a young hockey player (or multiple players at once) receive a monthly stipend of $400 per month for each player. Sometimes housing two players at once is easier as they can travel together and keep each other company.
Their season runs from August through May, though the time they spend at a potential home may vary depending upon where they are at in their schooling.
“We’ve placed players in all different sorts of living situations, whether they be conventional two parent families or single parent families. We’ve had a lot of success placing the kids with “empty nesters” or those whose adult children have moved out and have a spare bedroom.”
While a potential host family may have concerns about how players spend their downtime, Roseann assures them that the players’ behavior is monitored both on and off the ice and that their coaches have a zero-tolerance policy related to misconduct. As members of a junior hockey club, the young men are not just developing their talents, but are also learning how to become mature adults who are accountable for their actions.
Those interested in hosting a player fill out a questionnaire regarding household rules and responsibilities that are expected to be maintained. Roseann meets with the players and potential hosts to ensure that the two are a proper fit. In her own home, she keeps in contact with the players’ families who have themselves come to visit, as well. The host families are strongly encouraged to notify the coaching staff should any issues arise. As the Billet Coordinator, Roseann also keeps in close contact with hosts to make certain that a clear standard of conduct is met.
The billet program for the Wilkes-Barre Scranton Knights provides a unique opportunity for people to share their homes and lives with young men who have sacrificed a great deal to pursue their dreams. As such, the comfort and care provided by a host family is often what they need the most.
“They’re not just tenants or roommates. You keep in touch with these kids and follow their progress. You learn about where they’re from and invest in their goals. You care about them and vice-versa. They become family.”
To find out more, please call Roseanne Zubrickas at (570) 499-6393 or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.