Being in the business of youth sports is all about building a team to help manage your leagues, Ken Trager says
Ken Trager’s path to being in the business of youth sports started by watching a TV interview. Ken and his father saw an i9 Sports® area developer describe the brand and its mission.
At the time (2014), Ken was fresh out of college, and he decided to investigate. Then, with his father’s encouragement, he opened his own i9 Sports business. His initial franchise, in Denver, was perfect for the sports-loving city.
“Denver is the recreational capital of the world, and families also are involved in lots of different activities. So i9 Sport’s model of practice and play once a week fits perfectly,” Ken says.
“Now that I have kids playing with i9 Sports myself, I can’t imagine playing multiple times during the week with our busy schedules.”
Growing the business
Ken’s expansion journey didn’t stop in Denver. In 2018, he and his family moved to the Nashville area. He opened a second i9 Sports business there, becoming one of only a handful of owners who have i9 Sports leagues in multiple states.
Since then, he’s launched two more i9 Sports territories in Denver and another in Nashville, for a total of five.
How does he manage to run his businesses in different parts of the country? The answer lies in building a robust infrastructure. Ken has full-time and part-time staff in both cities and a general manager who oversees the day-to-day business for him in both markets.
Managing the business
“My general manager and I encourage employees to take more responsibility and empower them to take their roles and run with them. It also allows me to manage my business from 1,000 feet in the air,” he says.
With technology allowing group meetings and quick communication, Ken’s team operates as a cohesive unit despite the distance. Regular check-ins, including visits between cities, and a strong management team ensure that his leagues maintain the high standards that i9 Sports is known for.
“It’s an incredible model for families who want a youth sports experience that they can be proud of and don’t have to pay an arm and a leg for,” Ken says.
The i9 Sports business model
Ken is a strong advocate for the i9 Sports business model. “It’s given me financial success and more time with my family. It has allowed me to give my team the opportunity to succeed in their roles and to have ownership in them, which can be difficult in other jobs. It allows me to have that work/life balance that I really appreciate.”
Ken and his wife, Haley, have four children: Remy, 6, Ellie, 4, Brooks, 2, and Livy, born in June. Remy plays soccer with i9 Sports, with Ken as her coach.
When asked if he has advice for those thinking of owning an i9 Sports business, he says, “When I talk to a lot of people that are wanting to get into this, they say, ‘Oh, I have sports experience.’ Sport experience really doesn’t matter,” he says.
“Can it help? Absolutely. But people who succeed learn how to run a business, how to manage a team, and to communicate with clear expectations. You learn to empower others.”
Being in the business of youth sports
Ken says the i9 Sports home office provides essential support.
“The home office teaches you what to expect, what your business is going to look like. It’s very helpful, and you can pick up the phone and call for help whenever you need it.”
Past your first years, the assistance is still available, but owners usually outgrow the need for it, he says. For the future, Ken says he’s ready for more opportunities if they pop up. But he says he’s already surpassed his original goals.
i9 Sports is the first and largest youth sports league business in the U.S. We offer youth sports leagues today’s most popular sports, such as flag football, soccer, basketball, baseball, tennis, volleyball, and lacrosse. To learn more about being in the business of youth sports, download our free ebook now.