NFL strength coach becomes i9 Sports franchise owner
First he worked with the Buffalo Bills, then the Indianapolis Colts. Today, Jon Torine is working with the kids playing with i9 Sports — and he wouldn’t have it any other way.
Jon Torine spent most of his career in the NFL, first as a strength and conditioning coach for 17 years and then working with the NFL Players Trust Program to help former players transition to the next phase of their careers. He founded his own coaching and consulting business in 2012. Jon is also a Sports Safety Program Educator for the Hospital for Special Surgery, where they deliver programs and workshops for the PE and youth sports world on injury prevention and movement.
“With Lean In Coaching, I did all kinds of coaching consulting, not only across the youth sports space but, because of my background in pro sports, across all pro sports — NFL, NBA, NHL, MLB and other professional and private organizations. I did movement testing and assessments and brought together systems and people from sports medicine, rehabilitation, strength and conditioning, coaching and administration, working with players to optimize their health and performance.”
In the youth sports space, Jon was criss-crossing the country giving talks and working with coaches, parents and kids. When he learned a neighboring town was holding tryouts for kids in 7U sports, which prepare youth for competitive play in part by having them hyper-focus on a single sport across multiple seasons and working with trainers, he wasn’t happy. Competitive leagues tend to create an environment where keeping score is more important than having fun.
Sports should be fun for children, not stressful. As Jon worked to educate and inform the town around the physical and emotional pitfalls of sports specialization, he soon found another way to pursue his passion.
“I left that meeting really upset and frustrated. And as I was driving home, I thought, ‘It’s time for me to quit talking. It’s time for me to actually do something because I’m doing too much talking. I’m just going around and telling people how it ought to be done.’”
The next day, he started researching other options and came across i9 Sports.
Jumping in with both feet
During his career, Jon had worked with a lot of people in the youth sports industry. “I talked to everybody I could, all these people that I’ve had the good fortune to know around the youth sports world, and had everybody looking at the i9 Sports opportunity, and everything came up positive.”
He was equally thorough when it came to talking to existing franchisees — he estimates he spoke to about 20 of them.
“I couldn’t believe how hospitable all the franchisees were,” he says. “I spoke to (CEO) Brian Sanders numerous times. He took my calls and spent time with me, which I appreciated.”
Jon felt fully aligned with the mission of i9 Sports. As someone in the sports industry, he says, “it’s our job to inform and educate what youth sports is supposed to be, because we’re seeing relationships and families being spoiled by the car ride home after a sport. One of the things that was super attractive to me about i9 Sports was the fact that we were talking about sportsmanship lessons while having fun, and all of that is baked into the practice and games.”
‘It’s going great’
Jon’s first season is scheduled to begin on April 24 with four core sports to start with — flag football, baseball, soccer and basketball, with other sports to be added along the way. Unlike the sometimes uber-competitive nature of other youth sports leagues, the i9 Sports in Eastern and Central Monmouth County, NJ, will focus on providing an experience where kids can realize healthy competition, learn fundamentals and have fun.
Kids will be able to participate in sports sampling and, while learning safe and age-appropriate instruction, they’ll also be learning lessons in good sportsmanship, integrity, inclusiveness and teamwork.
These tenets are exactly what Jon was looking for in a youth sports business. “When the pull is there, the pull is there, and you’ll figure out the rest. That’s what I’m learning to do,” he says. “And I’m making mistakes and all those wonderful things, but between my i9 Sports business coach and everybody else that’s so supportive and the wonderful systems that are in place, it’s going great.”
To find out more about running your own youth sports business with i9 Sports, fill out the form on this page to download our free franchise report.