The i9 Sports® Story

Since 1995, Frank Fiume’s youth sports franchise has ignited sporting passion among youth nationwide

Starting a Sports League

Before Frank Fiume started his first sports league, he was a medical sales representative who called on open heart surgeons. It paid well, but “I had no passion for it.” So Frank, a baseball fanatic from Queens, New York, decided to start his own men’s softball league. 

“Adult sports leagues had been run the same way for 30 years,” he says. Other leagues were often disorganized and marred by hypercompetitiveness. While most players wanted to compete, they also wanted to have fun and make friends – but fun often took a backseat. Frank’s league was a huge success. ABA Sports grew to more than 900 teams in just six years.

While continuing to operate his booming business in New York, Frank Fiume 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 larger 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.

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. Disorganization, lack of communication, and inconvenience were cited as big problems. In researching youth sports, he found the same problems.

Fixing the Culture of Youth Sports

The problems in youth sports ran deeper, and it was heartbreaking. Frank discovered 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? Kids who didn’t have fun, or who didn’t get playing time, often dropped out of sports entirely. Instead of building kids up, sports were often tearing them down.

Frank set out to fix it. He settled on flag football as the first sports league to start 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 franchise dedicated to helping others start youth sports leagues of their own. 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 over 3 million player registrations in communities across the country, i9 Sports is the nation’s largest multi-sport provider focused solely on high-quality, community-based youth sports programs. 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.

Top Rated Franchise

i9 Sports® is committed to excellence for the sake of excellence. It’s why we have over 3 million registrations nationwide. Still, it’s always nice to earn validation from outside sources. Take a look at some of the awards and accolades we’ve received from the industry publications and business insiders:

Ranked by Entrepreneur Magazine's prestigious Franchise 500® for 13 years running.

Entrepreneur Franchise 500

Recognized as Project Play Champion by The Aspen Institute.

Project Play Champion

Named a Top Franchise for less than $100K in Entrepreneur Magazine's 2020 & 2021 Franchise 500® issue.

Entrepreneur Franchise 500

Multiple years of Franchise Gator Top 100 rankings.

Franchise Gator Top 100

Recognized by INC. Magazine in their list of 5,000 Fastest Growing Private Companies for 7 years.

Inc. 5000

Ranked by Franchise Times Top 200+ for the past 13 years.

Franchise Times Top 200+

Named among Franchise Dictionary Magazine's Top 100 Game Changers for 2018.

Franchise Dictionary's Top 100 Game Changers

Consistently recognized as one of Entrepreneur's Top Home Based Franchises.

Top Home Based Franchises