Athletes in Franchising: Life After the Game

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Keith Smith

As a former professional football player, I was all too aware of the pitfalls of post-retirement life that often plague retired athletes.

The end of a professional sports career tends to be accompanied by a sudden realization of your financial vulnerability and a question of what to do next. In the past several years, more and more athletes have been able to find success later in life by transitioning into the world of franchising, an industry chock-full of potential.

Following my seven-year career in the NFL, during which I played for the Detroit Lions, San Francisco 49ers and Omaha Nighthawks, I was lucky enough to find an opportunity to launch my own franchise business. When embarking on this new endeavor, I was determined to pursue a business channel that would allow me to find a rewarding life after the game while still making a career out of my passion for sports, which is what led me to discovering an opportunity with the nation’s first and largest youth sports franchise, i9 Sports.

 

Marking my first venture into the world of franchising, I was initially introduced to i9 Sports from a former teammate, whose son plays for one of the leagues in Jacksonville. After extensive research on the company’s franchising opportunities, I immediately knew this was the business for me based on the proven track record of success of its business model. With convenient flexible hours, no real estate or upfront inventory, i9 Sports is a low-investment, home-based franchise opportunity offering entrepreneurs a compelling business with great profit potential. Additionally, there is immense room for growth in the youth sports market, considering that it’s a multi-billion dollar a year industry encompassing 42 million participants annually.

Putting the numbers aside, the biggest factor in deciding to become an i9 Sports franchisee was how much the company’s core values aligned with my own in regards to how I believe the youth sports experience should be. The ugly truth of organized sports today is that kids are having less fun and are instead facing more pressure, leading to low participation numbers in leagues throughout the country. However, the more I learned about the brand, the more apparent it became that i9 Sports is in a league of its own (no pun intended).

In fact, i9 Sports was founded on the principle that the number one reason kids play organized sports is to have fun – not to become the next draft pick. I witnessed first-hand how this philosophy has allowed the league to shape a program that emphasizes “how the game is played” and promotes good sportsmanship instead of the “win at all costs” mentality that often strains young children and can negatively impact their self-esteem.

As a former NFL player and lifelong sports enthusiast, I strongly believe in the value of sports during childhood, and was thrilled to find a league that is getting back to what should be the foundation of youth sports: mastering new skills, developing friendships and learning the value of healthy competition. During my time in the NFL, I learned valuable life lessons that have helped me succeed both on the field and off it, such as the importance of teamwork, responsibility and perseverance, and I believe that children can also learn how to succeed in life through sports. As a family man with four children of my own, i9 Sports was the perfect franchising opportunity because owning a league of my own has allowed me to create a resource that families in my community can trust to have their kids learn to play sports in a safe and positive environment.

Furthermore, the issue of concussion awareness in youth sports is an issue that hits home for me both as former NFL player and as a father. We’re in a race against the clock, and protecting players against head injuries that can impact them for the rest of their lives should be the utmost priority. That’s another huge reason why I chose to purchase an i9 Sports franchise, as the league is a leader in raising national awareness about safety in youth sports. In fact, it was the first national youth sports league to implement a “when in doubt, sit them out” concussion safety policy and education for parents and coaches system-wide.

I now own and operate an i9 Sports league in Douglasville, Ga., about 30 minutes outside of Atlanta, offering basketball, baseball, cheerleading, flag football and soccer. Based on my experience, I can speak first hand to the great opportunities that lie in the franchising industry for athletes transitioning from professional sports into the business world.

For more information on i9 Sports, visit www.i9sports.com.