NORTH OLMSTED, OH (WOIO) - In a time when we're seeing shows like "Friday Night Tykes" highlight a dark side of youth sports, one local league is looking to put out-of-control coaches and bad competitive behavior on the bench for good.
There are no try-outs for i9 Sports. They hold parents accountable for their behavior at the games, and value sportsmanship over a "win at all costs."
i9 Sports leagues are popping up all over the country, including two in Northeast Ohio, offering 3-14 year olds equal playing time on a variety of co-ed teams.
"At these young impressionable ages, these kids need playing time to get better. If they're buried on the bench, they'll never get better," said coach Rob Pietruszka.
He says they concentrate on good sportsmanship, without sacrificing competition.
"We're keeping score…but that's not our primary focus. We want the kids to have fun and learn lessons, and help them succeed in life through what they learn on the athletic fields," he said.
Pietruszka says their program is the opposite of what you see on "Friday Night Tykes."
"They're using violence, scare tactics and demeaning coaching practices to intimidate these kids," he said.
i9 Sports also require parents follow a code of conduct.
"I am that parent that needs the code of conduct because I get a little intense, a little heated sometimes. So it's great to take a step back and say, oh my gosh, these really are 5 and 7 year old kids playing a sport, doing the best they can," said parent Leslie Hilliard.
She has peace of mind because of the league's strict "no contact" policy.
"We have a 'when in doubt sit them out' policy. If they fall and have a head injury they're pulled out of the game and are not allowed to come back in until they're cleared to do so," said coach Pietruszka.
"For my 7 year old…when he's 10 or 12 and he wants to play tackle football, maybe I'll reconsider. But right now...the payoff for trying it is just not worth it for us," said Hilliard.
The franchise offers flag football, indoor flag football, baseball, soccer, t-ball and basketball. It will cost you $99-130 for each 6-8 week season.