By Tori Wittenbrock
GREEN BAY— Over the course of the past few years, Lori and Scott Roethlisberger have extended their generosity to the athletic community of Green Bay by opening their home up to young prospective athletes from around the country.
Entering the 2023 athletic year, this will be the Roethlisberger’s sixth season billeting a Green Bay Gamblers player, and their fifth season hosting a player for the Green Bay Rockers.
Over their five years as a Gambler billet, they have hosted about nine players, and approximately 10 players during their four years as a Rockers host, each over various lengths of time.
The Roethlisberger’s generosity, however, supersedes their recent contributions to the athletic world.
“We had been hosting foreign exchange students for about a decade. We loved our exchange kids. One night we saw our hockey friend Lynn DesJardin, who is the Housing Coordinator for the Gamblers and she said they were talking about us billeting a player. Went home and discussed it and said we’ll try it for a year,” said Scott about the family’s beginning as a host family.
“As for baseball, I work part-time for the Rockers and during the Covid season Andrew Johnson and John Fanta asked because they were in need of families. We had a great experience with the Gamblers, so we tried a season with the Booyah, now called the Rockers.”
Because hosting a young athlete comes with responsibilities, the Roethlisbergers said that their experience breeds a good balance in their relationship with these athletes. According to Scott and Lori, one of the most important lessons they have learned is about making everyone feel comfortable and welcomed.
“For most of the players it’s their first experience to be away and in someone else’s home. So making them feel right at home and part of your family right away takes away some of the nerves and anxiety they may have,” said Scott.
“Also, we need to be that parent in so many aspects for these young athletes — good or bad — communication is key. The players do become a part of your family when they are here.”
Although it may seem that hosting an athlete for each of these sports would not be too different, Scott and Lori explained that each experience is a very different process.
“Between the two programs, there are some differences mainly being the age of the players, current educational standing and the type and duration of their seasons. Gambler players can be season long or short term as an affiliate for a couple days or weeks. Rocker players are usually either full season, half season or short term contract (usually around 10 games),” said the Roethlisbergers about the different experiences they have had hosting for the Gamblers and Rockers.
“For the Gamblers, most players are of high school or post high school age looking to play Junior hockey to move on to a college program. Their season starts in September and ends in May. As for the Rockers, a vast majority of the players are coming from their college programs. Big difference is the players are here late May to mid August, 72 games in about 76 days, so very little downtime for them.”
The Roethlisbergers said that their experience hosting has made them very familiar with the process, what is expected of them and how to make things run as smoothly as possible.
“Players can come from all over the globe. You need to provide them with a room, meals and really incorporate them into your household. Need to have some household rules to go along with the team’s rules. Players do have more downtime during the week as most games are on the weekend. It’s pretty much the same as providing a family household with a room, meals and welcoming them to your family.”
As might be expected, the commitment the Roethlisbergers make to these athletes extends well beyond the time spent in their household. Scott said that the relationships they forge with these young athletes last far beyond the season they spend in Green Bay.
“The players and their families become your hockey/baseball families. We are in touch with a vast majority of our players through the years. We continue to follow their progress in school and their athletics endeavors.”
The Roethlisbergers said that they will forever treasure the experiences they have had billeting for the Gamblers and becoming a host family for Rocker players, and that they hope others are inspired to reach out and do the same, by offering their home.
“If you love sports and have the space in your house and in your family to help an athlete pursue their goals, it is such a rewarding endeavor. Your family receives season tickets, too. Not only the time you spend with your players, but the great friendships you make with the other host families is invaluable. There are currently six families who do the double hosting duties. They have become some of our closest friends and always a great go-to if there may be an issue you aren’t sure how to handle.”
Scott and Lori said that they are excited for the remainder of the 2023 athletic season, and they look forward to seeing what else the future of Green Bay athletics will bring them.