When Chris Novak decided to change his life in 2008 and become an i9 Sports franchise owner, he had no idea how much starting a youth sports league would bring him closer to his extended family.
After eight years of business, Chris now enjoys more time with his wife, Jackie, and their daughters, Sophia, 7, and Emma, 5. As a bonus, he also works with his brother John Novak, his sister-in-law Stacie Novak and his dad, Mike Novak.
“All of my eight siblings have also coached at some point with us,” Chris said. “This has become a family business, and that’s been such a blessing.”
As an i9 Sports franchise owner in Michigan, Chris offers eight different sports over seven venues spanning Oakland and Macomb counties, including flag football, soccer, basketball, T-ball, coach pitch, cheerleading, lacrosse and volleyball. He has grown the territory to seven venues over his eight years with i9 Sports.
Prior to joining i9 Sports for its kids franchise opportunity, Chris worked for seven years as an accountant at an automotive company until one day he started “dabbling around on the Internet” looking for a new career direction. His accounting job was OK, but the newlywed was getting tired of working late hours during month-end and quarter-end reporting times — sometimes not clocking out until 1 a.m. for days at a time.
“I thought, ‘If we do have kids, this is not what I want to be doing,” Chris said. “Then, I stumbled across i9 Sports.”
He was immediately drawn to the i9 Sports Experience, a philosophy that allows people to start a youth sports league that values fun and learning in a positive, organized atmosphere. The instruction-based programs fill a gap between hyper-competitive elite leagues and disorganized local programs. Chris said he likes that i9 Sports still teaches kids how to win and lose but does so in a constructive and encouraging way.
Chris’s i9 Sports leagues serve children ages 3 to 13. Each program features age-appropriate instructions, weekly sportsmanship values taught and emphasis on fair play vs. score of the game. A team of hired staff and volunteer coaches coordinate the games and an i9 Sports staff member is on-site to answer questions and solve any issues.
Most of the children in his leagues enjoy playing different sports which Chris said was another selling point of i9 Sports. Kids get experience playing multiple sports, learning different things from each one.
Chris has learned a lot along the way, too. He said he has become a better public speaker and communicator, talking with parents, making announcements at games, and working with local venues and businesses. And he has also received help along the way by the i9 Sports support team. They’ve helped him locate venues and offered demographic information to assist him in finding areas that would support expansion.
And expanded he has, going from one venue to seven in just eight years. In 2010, his brother John came on staff full-time as his “right-hand” man, taking care of site coordination, equipment, staffing and more. Their sister-in-law Stacie is a part-time marketing staffer and their dad works as an i9 Sports representative at games.
Over the years, Chris has seen hundreds of kids move through his athletic programs and he appreciates the impact his business has had on his community. Mostly, he has enjoyed hearing from parents who appreciate his programs and watching the kids have fun playing the sports they love.
“There are some kids still playing who were here when I didn’t have any gray hair!” Chris joked.
Contact us if you’d like to learn about how you can change your life by becoming an i9 Sports area developer.