For athletes on a budget, host housing can make or break a season. In fact, let’s consider the numbers: if you have a host house in say, Athens, Georgia, for winter training, you’re saving potentially thousands of dollars in rent, electricity bills, internet, and maybe even food. That couple thousand dollars can—and should—be looked at as an individual sponsorship. Even weekend stays for races—three or four nights—can save a thousand dollars, easily. If you add us the amount you save by staying in host housing compared to hotels, you’ll likely be shocked at how much you’re actually getting.
I recently wrote a piece that corresponds with this about how to be a good host for athletes, but I wanted to tackle the bigger issue: Athletes should be easy to host! Having been on both sides, I realize that as an athlete you’re there to do a job (win a race) and it can feel sort of annoying to have to think about how to be a good person staying in a guest room. Bit it’s painless, honestly.
Be an athlete that people are excited to host. When it comes to host housing, remember the lectures your parents likely gave you before sleepovers when you were a kid. It’s easy to keep a host happy, but it’s equally easy to offend them. Here are a few tips I’ve picked up over the years:
BYO towels and necessities
Most hosts will have towels but occasionally, you’ll lose this game. It’s just easier to have your own. The same goes for any sleeping needs, like a certain type of pillow, and toiletries. Don’t use their pricey shampoo, bring your own.
Don’t assume the fridge is up for grabs
That means space and food. Ask first.
Travel with a warm set of clothing
Air mattresses get chilly and while hopefully it’s warm enough, it sucks to wake up frozen. Bring a sweatshirt, sweatpants, thick socks and even a knit cap so that if temps drop, you’re not miserable.
It happens to everyone. I highly recommend bringing your own Pepto Bismol or Tums if you know that sometimes eating weird stuff leads to weirder results… But I also LOVE Poo-Pourri Before-You-Go Toilet Spray. When you need to use the bathroom, spray this on the water in the toilet before you go, and it traps the scent. Huge win if you’re not the most fragrant of humans post-race.
A lot of times, hosts are amazing humans who want to share a meal with you, which is great, but you may not get enough to eat based on their idea of dinner. But rather than be ‘that guy’ who takes third servings, just have a spare protein bar stashed away.
Let them know specific plans/needs
Before you arrive, tell your host as many arrival details as you can (ETA, how many bikes you’re bringing, departure date…). If you have any specific needs or dietary restrictions, tell them ahead of time. It’s almost always fine, but I’ve seen host families get a bit grumpy when they’ve made a great family-style dinner only to be told that one team member doesn’t eat gluten, another doesn’t eat meat, et cetera.
Keep your personal space clean and tidy
Even if you have your own room, make sure your personal belongings are tidy, your bed is made and the bathroom stays looking and smelling clean. I’ve seen host house disasters where toilets were pee-covered, bedrooms looked like a bomb went off, and the hosts were not impressed. Sure, they shouldn’t come into your space, but often, your room is their office or library and they might need access. Just keep it clean. (This is also key for being a good teammate sharing a hotel room.)
Keep your bike immaculate
Always ask where a bike should be stored, and where it can be washed or cleaned. Don’t track dirt or grease in the house, or wreck towels cleaning a chain. (Again, this sounds elementary but trust me, I’ve see it happen!)
Don’t abuse the wifi
Ask about if there’s an internet limit, and be respectful of it—don’t stream HD videos while the family is upstairs trying to watch another movie on Netflix. (Pro tip: hit a public place with wifi, like a McDonalds or a library, and pre-download Netflix shows and movies onto your iPad or phone, so you avoid relying on host internet altogether.)
Read the room
Some host families are happy to have you there without making a lot of conversation. Some love the idea of chatting up the pros. Try to get a sense of what your host wants from you in terms of conversation, eating together, etc., and do your best to provide it. Offer to make dinner, or at least offer to wash dishes.
Hook them up
Water bottles are great parting gifts that are always appreciated. Tickets to races that aren’t free are also well-received. Even stopping to chat while at the race if your host is there spectating is often much more appreciated than you may realize.
In person and in a written note. Again, this is more appreciated than you might realize. A bottle of wine or a bottle of maple syrup is a baller move. If you want to stay with them again the next year, even consider following up with them a few months later to check in, and let them know how your season is going.
Know that they talk about you
For better or worse. I know a lot of hosts, and I’ve heard them talk a lot of trash about some racers, and have glowingly nice stories about others. Be the one they talk about being great.
Found this useful? Share with the racers in your life, or with a promoter so that he or she can send this to athletes ahead of staying in host houses!