Playing basketball and football when he was 5 years old captivated Vince Carter. Now he, a middle school coach, wants to foster the feeling in other youngsters.
Toward that end, he launched a local franchise of i9 Sports, whose motto is “The Way Youth Sports Should Be.” His franchise has four local territories, including Spring Branch.
i9 offers weekend programs for girls and boys ages 3 to 14 in t-ball, soccer, flag football in the fall, and basketball. He is also looking to add volleyball and may be able to expand to lacrosse, tennis and cheerleading. Soccer, flag football, basketball and baseball start Saturday play Sept. 16. The season ends Oct. 28.
The Spring Branch outpost operates from Spring Woods Baptist Church, 10131 Emnora Lane. It uses four sports fields with indoor space to hold up to 500 youths.
The per-child cost for a seven-week program ranges from $140 to $185, with discounts for early registration.
Based in Tampa, Fla., the i9 company began in 2003. After meeting its founder, Carter saw that the franchise lines up with his objectives for youth sports.
“I wanted somebody who was teaching kids basic fundamentals of sports, who has a set of values and principles that lined up with what I like. That was the biggest attraction for me with them,” he said.
Carter, raised by a single parent, said he never expected to go to college. Thanks to his mother’s insistence that he play sports at age 5 to keep him busy and out of trouble.
He developed a love for it, leading to playing football for the University of Tennessee on a full scholarship. He later played semi-professional ball until an injury ended that career.
That didn’t stop his love of sports, though. He has coached students in football, basketball and track for more than 20 years, and is now based at Hamilton Middle School in the Cy-Fair Independent School District.
“It’s a passion,” he said of his coaching. Using his skills to run the franchise means “I’m really developing kids at a larger scale and reaching out a little bit further.”
Basic i9 principles include welcoming children of all skill levels. No tryouts or “drafts” are required.
‘Every Saturday I go out there and I see the little 3-and 4-year-olds so excited that they don’t think about any mistakes that they’ve done. The fact that someone is high-fiving them and acknowledging them when they come off the field is just the biggest thing, and they have a big grin on their face and they’re having fun,” Carter said of the personal reward he derives from the job.
Vince Carter, wife Lorena (to his left); their daughters
“That’s what a lot of parents say, is that their child likes coming out and having fun. That’s been really, really good for us.”
Carter said he also teaches overall sportsmanship.
“If a guy lines up to you is better than you – you shake his hand. You’ve played against the best,” Carter explained. “It’s not about winning; it’s about how to get up, be fair and have integrity about the sport, and that’s what missing.”
For more information, go to www.i9sports.com or call 832-210-3277
— By Karen Zurawski