SPORTS: i9 Sports

chris waughWho doesn’t remember their first team sports experience? Whether it’s running around a grassy field, emitting high-pitched hollers and kicking after a soccer ball, or dribbling a too-big basketball down the court while shoes squeak against the polished wood floor, those are the memories that are carried well into adulthood. The sense of loss at defeat, the sense achievement at victory and the bond of teamwork that runs through it all are important growing-up experiences for any child.

Edmond teacher and sports enthusiast Chris Waugh has brought i9 Sports to the Edmond/Oklahoma City area. “It’s one of the first franchises for youth sports leagues and camps and nationally they have over 500,000 members since 2003 and over 275 locations in 30 states, but this is the first and only one so far in our state,” said Waugh.

“I’ve been a coach and teacher the last six years and even before that, I was really involved with youth ministry and I just always had a passion for sports and also I wanted to make a difference in kids’ lives,” he explains. “i9’s mission is to help kids succeed in life through sports, so it’s kind of a homerun for me to decide to do this.”

This fall, the program will offer soccer and coed flag football. Spring will see the start of T-ball and cheerleading, as well as camps and clinics for kids ages 4 to 13, and maybe a smaller season of flag football. The fall season lasts eight weeks, beginning September 22 and ending November 17. Parents have until August 24 to sign up, and they can save $10 if they register before July 27. Before the fall season starts, there will be a one-time jamboree, where they bring all the coaches and players together so everyone can meet.

Soccer is offered to kids as young as 3, and flag football starts at age 4 or 5, depending on ability. “We talk with the parents. Some kids are way more athletic at that age than others,” he explains.

Waugh taught health and physical education at Edmond North High School, his alma mater. He knew he wanted to do something in sports right when he started teaching. He discovered i9 Sports on the Internet. “I really like the values of i9 Sports,” Waugh says. “They wanted to be a fun but also professional atmosphere, because the main things they’re focused on are fun, safety and convenience.”

“That doesn’t make it noncompetitive,” he affirms. “We still keep score and there’s still a championship game at the end of the season, but it is about having fun.” There will be a sportsmanship award each week for one of the kids on the team.

Waugh wanted more experience with coaching and teaching before bringing i9 Sports here, so he completed his master’s degree in December. “Once I finished that I realized it’s go time.”

Fields are located at Santa Fe Presbyterian Church, about half a mile north of Danforth on Santa Fe, and the league will meet on Saturdays. Referees will be trained through the program and coaches will be volunteers. “The neat thing about i9 Sports is we do practices and games on the same day, so people aren’t running around all week trying to get to this practice and that practice,” he explained. “If you have a game at 10 a.m., you have 9 a.m. practice. That’s where the convenience comes in.”

“It’s equal playing time for all the kids,” Waugh says. “There’s no tryouts or fundraising. All of the coaches and staff are background-checked.” He encourages parents to volunteer to be coaches.

Waugh says it’s important for kids to have fun, but he also feels sports offer children something even more valuable. “It is great exercise and teaches them how to be part of a team, and I think it’s important as they grow up and they get a job and everything else,” he says. “I think sports teach a lot of things you need to learn in life.”

“This is a new concept in Oklahoma, and we’re all about having fun, and it’s going to be one of the most professional organized youth leagues that they’ve been a part of,” Waugh says.

The program stands to offer something new and unique for Edmond-area families looking for a way to introduce their children to the challenge, reward and education that come with team sports. To get started, go to i9sports.com.

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