Organized youth sport leagues are full of all kinds of commitment from both parents and kids, but in Pasco County there is another alternative growing in popularity.
I9 Sports is a noncompetitive sports program that has more than 200,000 members nationwide. In 2008, Jimmy Barbarise became the coordinator of the Pasco County portion of the program. Since taking on the challenge, he has seen the popularity of the program boom.
"In the last year, the number of memberships across the country has doubled," Barbarise said. "To me, a league like this is better for the kids because it's good for their self-esteem because everyone plays and there are no tryouts. Nobody is treated differently because of their skills."
The league not only has no tryouts, it also has no fundraisers or requirements for parents, such as operating concessions. With only one practice per week, the league is a more realistic option for parents whose professional lives don't allow them to run their kids to and from practices throughout the week.
"Parents come to our games to watch their kids play," Barbarise said. "We understand that people are busy and they don't have time to run around with their kids selling candy bars and doing carwashes, so we don't use any fundraisers. Family time is important, so we don't bombard the kids with practices three and four days a week either."
The organization uses a Web site to compile stats and standings for all i9 sports, which include soccer, basketball, flag football and cheerleading. Baseball is on the agenda for 2010.
Coaches are volunteers; however, there is a certification test that covers not only strategy, but how the coach should treat the kids. Chris Florence is a coach of the flag football team, the Chargers, and feels i9 is a unique experience for kids.
"Because every kid gets to play instead of just the really skilled kids, there is a better sense of unity," Florence said. "Everyone is like a family. I've seen other leagues, and they don't have the organization or the fun atmosphere that this has."
For parents, the league is good because of the unbiased nature of i9 that caters to both boys and girls. Tanji Coats' son and daughter are on the Dragons flag football team together and she feels that the organization of the league, and the fact that girls and boys can play together, makes the league special.
"I've received e-mails from the coach giving details about the season, which is new to me," Coats said. "I think it's great that the boys and girls play together because my daughter wanted to play football, but thought she'd be the only girl until she got here. I think that it changes the kids' perceptions of gender bias when they see that my daughter can play pretty well, too."
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