Housing America's Pastime: Nomadic Athletes in Baseball & Beyond

From access to dieticians and top-tier personal trainers to on-staff medical providers, professional sports teams provide many resources for their players—except adequate resources to find housing.

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From access to dieticians and top-tier personal trainers to on-staff medical providers, professional sports teams provide many resources for their players — except adequate resources to find housing. In fact, this is the first regular season in the history of Major League Baseball (MLB) in which the league is required to provide housing for minor league players (a program that still faces issues despite this win).

While regulations vary from sport to sport, the kind of movement some professional teams see in their rosters creates unique housing requirements for players relocating on short notice. In most cases, housing needs to be located within specific distances from sports complexes and practice areas, often in cities or towns with which the players are not personally familiar. Hotel stays have been common in the past, but they can be impersonal in the long-term or unable to accommodate players with partners and families.

The solution to these challenges lies in flexible, on-demand housing that encompasses players' dynamic needs.

Housing & Performance

While there are flaws to recent regulations, the MLB taking on adequate housing for minor league players is an important step in the right direction. Housing is more than just a basic need. In supporting minor league players, the MLB began to acknowledge the importance of a sense of home, even for those on the road multiple times a year. Enhanced housing practices and strategies aid team performance. Historically speaking, where a team stays has been focused on less than how they perform, but the two are connected.

Days are long and grueling for many of these athletes, so a comfortable place to stay where they receive the proper accommodations to physically recover for the next training session is of the utmost importance. Additionally, some athletes are very young and join the league from other countries. That kind of lifestyle change can be jarring for anyone navigating a new job, and finding a new home can be an even bigger burden when they have no experience with housing or living abroad. A common misconception about professional athletes is that they earn large paychecks and can afford lavish accommodations, but many up-and-coming individuals are fresh to their leagues and work for low wages.

Examining the Impact

This complexity also extends beyond the Major Leagues. Sports teams at many levels are required to travel multiple times a year. The lengths of those stays vary, and teams organize travel not only for athletes, but also for trainers, coaches, and other staff members. Logistically, it's quite a large task.

For example, the American Hockey League can see upwards of ten player transactions on a given day. Players can be released, returned on loan or reassigned, sometimes within the span of a week. How do these players navigate the impact those transactions have on housing?

One possible solution is partnerships with third-party housing providers to extend the reach of inventory teams and individuals at their disposal. Seeking out flexible lease terms and move-in-ready units allows athletes to focus on their performance in games or at training camps, and not the amount of time and coordination relocating requires.

The kind of variability athletes see is a factor traditional homebuyers or renters don't. Within the current market, even those looking for permanent stays are experiencing challenges. With housing markets and inventory fluctuating across cities and towns, budgets that support affordability in one area won't always do so in other locations. Additionally, players aren't in total control of where they'll end up being placed, or how many times they may have to relocate.

For NFL practice squads, players don't dictate what team they might be on in the next week. On a smaller salary than players on full-time rosters, being picked up by a team across the country, while exciting, can put a financial strain on the players as they scramble to find housing. Targeting the right stay, in the right place, at a price range players can afford may not always be feasible through internal resources. Teams can consult with external partners to ensure comfortable stays for players, as well as to stay in compliance with any larger regulations.

Traveling athletes deserve housing that is comfortable and practical for their needs. Teams provide a great degree of support when it comes to physical performance, but housing has lagged behind. Significant progress has been made to rectify the negative impacts of the past, but more needs to be done, particularly in leagues outside of the MLB minors. No matter what sport, at whatever level, or how many times a player may be traded throughout a season, housing should be a consistent comfort on which they can depend. If teams are unable to provide that alone, or materially restructure internal operations, on-demand solutions are an important measure that can resolve disparities today.

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