Like points on a scoreboard, the positive effects of sports have continued to add up throughout Isaiah Rojas’ life. Isaiah took his first tentative steps onto the t-ball field as the child of Mexican-American immigrants growing up in Northern California. Now, he’s a business owner, loving every moment of operating his own youth sports franchise with i9 Sports.
It’s a journey that brought him from the Bay Area of California out to the Hawaii islands and finally to his territory in the Frisco, Texas, area. Starting as an employee, Isaiah quickly connected with i9 Sports’ mission of fostering a positive experience for children and parents alike.
“As much as I love sports, it wasn’t until I worked with i9 Sports that I found something that met my core values,” Isaiah says.
This alignment ultimately convinced him to invest in i9 Sports, the best kids franchise in his opinion. However, Isaiah says he knew all along that he would own an i9 Sports kids play franchise.
Chance email leads to dream job with kids play franchise
Isaiah first heard about i9 Sports via an email from a college acquaintance. The message advertised a job with the i9 Sports kids entertainment franchise in Honolulu, Hawaii. With a master’s degree in sports management from Cal State Long Beach under his belt, Isaiah applied and landed the job.
“At that time, it was just me and my wife, Nori — no kids. A month later we had our bags packed,” Isaiah says. “It was really an adventure. I knew very little about i9 Sports when I accepted the job.”
Before heading to Hawaii, Isaiah learned all about the organization during i9 Sports’ extensive training at the company’s Florida headquarters. Though living in Hawaii was still a huge unknown, Isaiah says the training told him all he needed to know.
“I loved it. I loved their philosophy. I loved what they’re standing up for. I loved the people. I loved everything I learned. I honestly just loved everything about it.”
His enthusiasm continued as he worked as program director for Honolulu franchise owner Roger Dequina, soaking up as much as he could for three years. When he and Nori decided they wanted to move back to the mainland, Roger suggested Isaiah reach out to the franchisee in Frisco, Texas, who was looking to sell.
While this might seem strange — for a business owner to let go of a star employee and actually encourage them to become an owner in the same company — it’s the type of thing that happens within the i9 Sports culture. And it’s the kind of personal connection that further hooked Isaiah.
Everything ‘falls into place’ for Isaiah
Knowing Frisco was an already thriving territory with lots of participation, Isaiah negotiated purchase of the business and packed his bags once again. It was April 2016, he was 32 years old, and he didn’t know anything about the place where he was moving his growing family, which now included Isaiah Jr.
“It was a huge transition,” Isaiah says. “I wanted to be part of something big, and I loved the idea of starting a business. I wanted to lead, to create something on my own — to be able to say, this is what I’ve done.”
Now he operates a region that includes about 90,000 age-eligible children and approaches every day with an energetic attitude and a grateful spirit. Isaiah relishes the knowledge that his business provides kids with positive athletic experiences. He empathizes with them, remembering how much sports affected his young life. Starting with t-ball at age 4, Isaiah continued to play baseball throughout high school and college.
“Sports gave me confidence and a good self image, so the stereotypes people may have placed on me never stook and I never found truth in them,” Isaiah said.
“No matter where I came from, or what people think of me, or what kind of equipment I have, I can still get better. No matter how much more money people have than me, once I got on the field, none of that mattered.”
The multiplying effect of a positive experience
The positive effects of sports carried over to Isaiah’s schoolwork, pushing him to study harder and achieve more. He wanted to honor all the sacrifices his parents made to give him a better life, and his years playing sports built a personality focused on persistence and positivity.
“Some of my fondest memories and greatest friends were ones I had on the field,” he said. “I never won a championship or anything, but that never mattered. It was the process of playing, competing, getting better.”
Now he provides the opportunity to play, compete and improve through his leagues that offer flag football, soccer, t-ball, and basketball year-round. Nearly 700 kids enrolled in programs between Fall 2016 and Winter 2017, and Isaiah hopes to add more in upcoming seasons.
His business employs more than a dozen part-time employees, and Isaiah looks forward to building his staff and learning even more about his new home community. Mostly, he enjoys every day with his i9 Sports business, which is so much more than a kids entertainment franchise. It’s an approach to sports that truly changes lives.
“These kids who are playing for me — they won’t remember me. But they’ll remember making that basket, getting that touchdown,” Isaiah said. “They don’t know me personally, but I was able to create that experience for them. I love that feeling. It’s addictive, honestly.”
Write your own story with i9 Sports
What motivates you? What experience can you bring to the table? How would it feel to own a business that lets you work from home doing something you love? Send us a message and download our free report, How to Make a Living in Youth Sports, to find out how an i9 Sports kids play franchise might be right for you!