Page 2’s Michael Sandler on Becoming a “Sports Dad”

Most of our clients know Michael Sandler from his top-notch media relations skills. But Michael’s personal resume includes another high-stakes matter — navigating his role as a “sports dad.” Below he shares his philosophy for supporting his son’s t-ball efforts.

My six-year-old son Jackson reached a milestone this week: He played in his first official t-ball game. He had already been playing on a soccer team, so my wife and I are now figuring out how best to manage our son’s participation in sports. We love most sports and are thrilled that Jackson is taking an interest.

But this new chapter begs the question: What kind of “sports dad” do I want to be?

It is an important question to ponder. After all, this is my first time through the world of organized sports as a dad, and I don’t want to mess up. Team sports can be formative for a kid, and I want Jackson to have as much fun as possible. 

I hope he has fun because playing sports is a time commitment! Soccer is every Sunday evening, and t-ball games are played two nights per week — and that’s not counting the time it takes to schlep there in the car. I look forward to the treks to practice and games, and the ultimate goal of course is that Jackson looks forward to the experience too.

As a sports dad, I have some choices to make: Should I be super hands-on? As well-intentioned as that is, it might also become overbearing and annoy my son. Not to mention I’m not a major-leaguer myself, and little league was as far as my talent took me. So what do I know anyway?

Or should I go for laid-back dad, the hands-off approach to being a sports dad? This is a more tolerable strategy for sure. Just let Jackson come to me for advice, or, better yet, ask the coaches. They are experts, after all.

The truth is, I will probably be a little bit of both. At games, let the coaches coach and stay out of the way. I’m just there to encourage my son and to provide transportation. And then when we play ball at home, I try to just reinforce what he’s already learned and enjoy the time. So far, so good!

Are you a sports dad or mom? I’ve assembled some best practices for getting through the t-ball season, in case they might be of help:

  1. Get up and walk around during t-ball games. The games are very slow, so it is good to get up and stretch your legs to regain focus!
  2. It is OK if your child is better than you were at sports.
  3. Good team camaraderie is most important. If you’ve got a good group of coaches and parents, the rest takes care of itself.