The i9 Sports Story
Since 1995, Frank Fiume’s youth sports franchise has ignited sporting passion among youth nationwide
The i9 Sports® story began back in 1995 when a young man named Frank Fiume realized that he had absolutely zero passion for his career as a medical device sales rep. At the time, Frank had been involved in a local adult men’s softball league in Long Island, New York. Out of frustration with his career and disappointment with how poorly the softball leagues were run, Frank began wondering how he could earn a living doing what he loved – sports!
This was a guy who as a 10-year old created a wiffle ball field in his backyard, complete with homemade dugouts and a bicycle parking lot for the neighborhood kids. He would have had a football field, too, had his mom not made him take down the giant two-by-four wood beams that he and his friends nailed up to the family fence as goal posts.
While researching the adult sports leagues in the area, Frank made an amazing discovery. All those highly disorganized, terribly run, local leagues were making a lot of money. They were profit centers disguised as sports leagues.
So Frank launched his own adult softball league with the idea that he could provide a much better experience for the players by operating his leagues as a business. He built proprietary software to organize team rosters, schedules, stats and scores; focused on clear and consistent communication and hired dependable umpires. Despite being told it would never work, Frank’s start-up league grew to more than 1,000 teams within a couple short years. The best was yet to come.
Why youth sports?
While continuing to operate his booming business in New York, Frank and his wife Nadine moved to Tampa, Florida, in 1996. With a baby on the way, Frank began wondering if his concept could apply to youth sports.
At face value, the youth sports business opportunity appeared much bigger than adult sports. Since the average U.S. household has two kids, if you get one child to play, you will likely get both. If you provide a great experience when the kids are young, you can count on renewals for years to come. And unlike adult players, kids play sports year-round and will typically play multiple sports. All in all, a BIG opportunity! But could recreational youth sports succeed as a business?
Frank had learned from his adult leagues that it was the overall player experience that set his programs apart. In researching youth sports among parents, he found the same basic issues he had overcome earlier in his adult leagues. Disorganization, lack of communication and inconvenience were cited as big problems.
But Frank discovered a far bigger issue in youth sports – a destructively competitive, highly political culture that was turning sports into a negative experience for kids. How can kids ever learn a sport if they are constantly told they are not good enough to play and are made to sit on the bench?
Convinced he could provide a superior experience for both parents and kids, Frank set out to create a model for a youth sports business opportunity. He settled on flag football as the first sport to offer because competition was limited, football had broad appeal and flag football is safe for both boys and girls to play.
Beginning in 1998, Frank’s foray into youth sports was wildly successful. In fact, it was so successful that he sold his adult softball business and teamed up with franchise-industry experts to launch a national youth sports franchise company. In 2003, i9 Sports was born and the first i9 Sports franchise was sold. Little did Frank know at the time that his simple goal to put fun back into youth sports would revolutionize the industry.
With a growing base of over 2,500,000 player registrations to date at over 925 locations from New York to Hawaii, i9 Sports sets the standard for youth sports league programming. Like Frank, individuals who want to make a living doing what they love can experience the excitement of owning a sports-related business through i9 Sports.
Own an i9 Sports franchise
If you’re interested in learning more about starting an i9 Sports franchise in your town, request a copy of our free Franchise Report, How the Business Works.