By Dave Ficere
Youth sports leagues sometimes conjure up images of families running frantically to practice and games, out-of-control parents berating umpires or players and an over-competitive win-at-all-cost mentality. But one company that operates leagues here in the Valley hopes to change that perception.
i9 sports, based in Tampa, Florida, bills itself as the nation’s first and largest provider of youth sports leagues in the United States. With more than 600,000 members in 500 communities from New York to Hawaii, i9 offers youth sports leagues, camps and clinics for boys and girls between the ages of three and 17. Programs are offered in today’s most popular sports such as flag football, soccer, basketball, T-Ball and cheerleading.
What sets i9 apart from other youth sports programs is their focus. Arin Finger, the i9 Sports Area Developer for Greater North Phoenix, says “Fun, safety and convenience is what we strive for and competition is not our primary purpose. Helping kids succeed in life through sports is our primary goal, but kids also learn sportsmanship values.”
Those principles are reflected in the i9 Sports name, which is based on nine principles that best symbolize their core ideology: Imaginative, Innovative, Interactive, Integrity-driven, Impassioned, Inspirational, Instructional, Insightful and Inclusive.
I9 Sports programs also offer children a chance to participate in traditional kids sports leagues without the usual headaches for them or their parents. “One of the biggest complaints parents or children have about traditional sports leagues is that it becomes less fun, there’s too much pressure to win and the programs are not well organized,” Finger says. “Our programs require a one day a week commitment with practices conveniently scheduled prior to the game. There are no crazy schedules or burnout from either kids or their parents with our programs,” he adds.
Among the unique aspects of i9 leagues is that they are open to children of all skill levels and the leagues don’t hold tryouts or player drafts so no one feels left out. In addition, every child plays at least part of each game, and parents will be glad to hear there are no fundraisers or mandatory “volunteering.” Each game is officiated by a trained professional and every official and coach must pass a background check before they’re allowed to be a part of the program.
Finger says for the younger kids up to about age seven the emphasis is more on having fun and developing good sportsmanship. However, he says, for the older kids they do keep score and statistics as well as teaching the importance of winning and losing graciously. In addition, Finger says, i9 runs a lot of instructional leagues, “so children are learning and developing their skills and then putting those to use in actual game situations.”
Currently offering Flag Football, T-Ball (for ages 3-7), Basketball, Soccer and Cheerleading, i9 sports leagues run year-round for all sports and each program is only eight weeks long, so kids can try different sports.
“I think we offer an alternative to other sports leagues especially because we run year-round leagues in all sports, such as baseball,” Finger adds.
Leagues are fairly priced, costing between $99 to about $119, which includes a jersey, insurance and an eight-week season. I9 also has parent-appreciation days and other events as part of their leagues.
To find out more about i9 Sports leagues here in the Deer Valley area, contact Arin Finger at 480-730-6446 or email him at: [email protected]. For more general information visit the i9 website at i9sports.com.