By Nichole Harwood
Albuquerque’s i9 Sports introduces parents to a different approach to youth athletics, putting fun over competitiveness.
CEO and multi-unit franchise owner Roger Linn said the focus on fun is crucial, as it shapes a child’s view on sports as they get older. With nine current locations in Albuquerque, i9 Sports works hard to reclaim sports from over-competitive parents by creating an unabashedly recreational program.
“I think the number one takeaway is to remember that we always put a heavy emphasis on fun first. Because if you’re not having fun, then you’re not going to enjoy sports for the rest of your life,” Linn said.
Making fun a priority for children lays the foundation for i9 Sports and is an underlying principle that is followed by both the children that attend and the coaches that teach. Ways in which fun is encouraged is through the business’s Buddy Program and Coaching Program. When signing up online, children can request to be put on a team with buddies and request specific coaches. These options help to lay the groundwork for a more comfortable experience for children by allowing them to play with friends.
Along with the requests for coaches and buddies, Linn said that no child is ever left out. i9 Sports does not hold any tryouts, and children are not ever in danger of ‘not making the team.’ By allowing each child a chance to play, i9 Sports encourages inclusivity in all of its activities.
“Each week, our coaches go over the sportsmanship lesson of the day with their team, and at the end, they award a teammate the sportsmanship medal for the day,” Linn said. “Kids will also take home the ‘sportsmanship of the week’ winner sign home for that week and bring it back for someone else to take home next. Kids look up to these life-lesson messages, and for us coaches, it allows us to teach the kids the important aspects of good life skills, and sportsmanship.”
Linn emphasized that i9 Sports is not political and that they do not play favorites with any of the teams.
“We want everyone to have an equal opportunity to try different positions and to have a fair rotation because we feel as soon as kids hit high school it is politicized and we just want to give the kids a really good base and a love for sports early on,” he said.
i9 Sports provides a variety of sports for boys and girls ages three and up in today’s most popular sports such as flag football and soccer. A full list of their sports programs for each location can be found online. i9 Sports provide a spring, summer, fall, and winter season for parents to sign their children up for their favorite sports program. Due to Covid-19, there has been a delay in the spring program, but Linn said they are on track to continue the summer program, even if it has been pushed back a bit. Parents can sign their children up for the programs online or over the phone.
Linn said he wants parents to know that whatever the program they sign their child up for, they can be reassured their child will always be able to play.
“Sports themselves are naturally competitive, and so we don’t need to put any extra emphasis on that,” Linn said. “We would much rather hear that a team played everyone equally versus a coach playing for the win.”
Linn said families looking to get their children involved in a variety of sports while being in an inclusive and fun environment are a perfect fit for i9 Sports.
“We’re not going to be your most competitive sports team, but I think we provide access to a very good beginner and intermediate program,” Linn said.
The name “i9 Sports” means “i to the 9th power.” This is broken down to symbolize nine critical differences in the i9 Sports approach to youth athletics, with each number representing an integral part of i9 Sports. These nine crucial differences in their approach to youth sports are imaginative, innovative, interactive, integrity-driven, impassioned, inspirational, instructional, insightful, and inclusive.
“These are our core principles and values that we embody and take to heart in all our programming,” Linn said. “In times like now, where we have the Black Lives Matter movement and other social topics surfacing such as LBGTQ, we want people to know that we are fully inclusive. We want everyone to come out and have a good time while knowing that no one is going to be excluded from our program.”