Rad Sports Dad #2: The Backyard Rink Dad

Brad Marmo - Rad Sports Dad

Brad Marmo – Rad Sports Dad

I’m pumped to introduce you to the second dad to be named a “Rad Sports Dad.” His name is Brad Marmo. Brad represents everything SportsDadHub is about:

  • Being a dad and possitive role model for your kids
  • Fueling your kids’ passion for sports
  • Using sports to teach your kids life lessons and forming a lifelong bond
  • Helping your kids become the best athletes THEY want to be

What Makes Brad So Rad?

As soon as he sensed that his two boys had an interest in ice skating and playing hockey, the dude built them an ice rink in their backyard!

He didn’t just want to give them something they would enjoy. He wanted to give them childhood memories that would last a lifetime.

A Sports Dad can’t get much more rad than that.

When I saw the pictures of his backyard ice rink on Twitter, I knew he was the next Rad Sports Dad.

Dedication like that cannot be ignored.

The backyard ice rink Brad Marmo built for his sons.

The backyard ice rink Brad Marmo built for his sons.

If you’re anything like me, you want to get to know Brad a little. So I conducted a little Q & A to help us do that. I hope you enjoy it.

Q: How old are you and your wife? 

A: I’m 36 and my wife is 35.  We are coming up on 10 years of marriage and have been together for 15.  I used to say to myself, “Wow, I’ve been out of high school for how long?”  Lately I’ve been saying the same thing about marriage, and more recently, being a dad.

Q: Where are you guys from? 

A: My wife is from Chelmsford, MA where we live now.  She swore she would never return, as many of us do to our hometowns, but here we are and both loving every second of it.  I am originally from New Jersey, but after meeting my wife in college (Fairfield University in CT), I eventually decided to make the move north to start making things official.

Brad's boys.

Brad’s boys.

Q: How old are your boys?

A: 5-years-old and 2.

Q: What organized sports do your kids play? Do they have a favorite?

A: Ha!  A favorite, that’s understatement.  The other day my 5-year-old and I were sitting at the ice rink after his “Learn to play hockey” class, watching the older kids practice and both leaning forward in our seats trying to take in everything and anything happening on the ice.  Simply put, neither of us could get enough, and it was at that moment I had a premonition that this is our lives for the foreseeable future.  I love it, he loves it, and we are pretty much “all-in” with ice hockey at this point.

He also plays and kicks butt at soccer and we just signed him up for T-ball in the spring (in no small part due to your advice about avoiding sports burnout, as the original plan was to skip T-ball and only do soccer/hockey).

The 2-year-old just started soccer a few weeks ago and it’s his first foray into organized sports.  The signs are mixed at this point as far as how he feels about being told what to do, but he is trying, and to be honest, shows signs of more raw talent than his big brother.  I think his big brother might have more competitive drive, but the little guy might be the one with the natural skills.  I wrote about their soccer differences here: Two Tales, Same Game.

Brad's 5-year-old breaks in the rink's glassy surface.

Brad’s 5-year-old breaks in the rink’s glassy surface.

Q: What made you decide to build a backyard ice rink?

A: I’ve always kind of had this idea in the back of my head once we bought our current house and had the yard to do it. So I wrote an article about “having visions” of a backyard rink to try and light a fire under my butt by making myself accountable to my readers.  But, truth be told, the rink was built days after the tragedy in Newtown, CT and I think about that horrible day most times I look at the rink.

The overall sentiment after that day was to hug and kiss your kids and appreciate every moment with them, and while I knew I was doing the hugging and kissing, I wanted to do better at appreciating every moment with them.  I knew I could be doing more to create deeper memories with them that they will have forever.  Again, not just memories, but memories they will have forever.  My belief was/is that the rink would create such memories.

Q: How long did it take you to build the rink? Did you have any help?

A: Yes, my buddy who is a carpenter and custom cabinet builder led the charge on this project.  My 5-year-old and I were his helpers and all said and done it probably took us under 3 hours to build, with another hour or so at the hardware store to gather supplies.  All in, it cost me $300 with the tarp being the most expensive part of the equation. 

Framing up the backyard rink.

Framing up the backyard rink.

Q: Did you follow any kind of plan or instructions that you could pass along to other dads interested in doing this?

A: We went with the simple approach.  Made a rectangle out of 2x8s (with some 2x10s where the yard sloped down) and used small wooden stakes around the perimeter to keep the box from shifting.  We based everything off of the tarp size – 30′ x 50′.  From there I bought enough wood to make a 25′ x 40′ box, and with 10ft pieces of lumber, only one piece had to be cut in half for the short sides.  We laid the whole thing out first, then constructed from corner to corner.  My buddy used his speed square to make sure each corner was at a nice 90 degree angle before we moved on down the line.  String was used from one corner to the next to create a straight line for the sides.  At each junction of 2x8s, we took a 1ft piece of 2×4 and screwed it to the backs of each to join them together, staking the perimeter as we went.  The stakes keep the whole frame from racking back and forth, the 2x4s keep all of the pieces from pulling away side to side.  The rest is up to Mother Nature.

Q: What did your kids say and do when you told them what you were doing?

A: Honestly, my 5-year-old really didn’t get it until there was water, even though I was trying to explain it to him the whole time.  I think he thought it would be like the real rink he has his lessons at and didn’t understand that what we were building would be something we could skate on.

Q: How did they react the first time it was ready to skate on?

A: The first official skate was New Year’s Eve.  We had some friends over whose kids skate and the idea was do a little skating before we got down to celebrating.  The funniest part was that first sheet of ice was like glass.  The kids were slipping and falling all over the place.  I was horrified and worried someone would get injured and we would be spending NYE at the emergency room.  But all turned out well and after a little “scratching up” of the ice surface the skating conditions improved and good times were had.


Mommy Marmo shows the boys how it's done.

Mommy Marmo shows the boys how it’s done.

Q: What’s the best and worst thing about having a backyard rink?

A: The best is the time spent on it.  Truth be told, we were only able to skate on it a handful of times as this was a relatively mild winter in New England.  But the times we did have were memorable and well worth the money and effort.  I will always remember my 5-year-old and I playing out there for hours one Saturday to the tune of a game whose final score was 31-30.  We even got mommy out there a few times to play hockey with us, and one Saturday had a group of friends over for a fun afternoon of skating and hockey.

The worst – staring out my window at a slushy, watery box and cursing global warming.

Q: Is this going to be an annual tradition? If so, is there anything you’ll do differently next year?

A: Yes, I will do this annually.  I’m going to number the pieces before I take it apart and put it back as close to the same as I can.  The thing I will do differently next year is probably swap out all 2x8s for 2x10s.  I noticed that the parts of the rink that would get watery/slushy first were the shallow ends. Theorizing that less ice depth and being closer to the “warm” ground was the cause of this, I believe that increasing the overall depth of the rink will improve conditions.

At some point as I perfect the process, I will make it bigger.  Our local hardware store sells and markets 40′ x 100′ pieces of plastic for ice rinks, so I basically consider that a challenge.

Q: Describe your favorite Sports Dad memory so far?

A: I don’t think there is an exact moment so far as much as it’s my 5-year-old’s progress and drive with regards to ice skating and hockey.  He used to “step skate” forever and all of a sudden one day we was pushing and gliding like an expert.  Next thing I know he has this glint is in his eye at class like he needs to be the first in all of his drills, the result being him crashing into the boards and forfeiting his body like a madman in an effort to be first.  We talk with him about the importance of doing the drills right as opposed to being first, but I still like to see that drive.

Actually, one moment that I will always remember came when him and another kid fell together and the other kid’s skate nicked him in the leg.  It cut his pants, but nothing past that.  But my son was definitely shocked by the whole thing and came off the ice crying.  Once we inspected and realized there was nothing wrong, I was about to ask if he wanted to go back out there, but before I could do so he pushed himself away from me and went back out on his own.

Proud is an understatement. 

Q: What’s the best part about being a Sports Dad?

A: The sports.  My wife and I both love watching sports and playing sports.  Now to be able to combine the two by playing with my sons and then getting to watch them on their own is just the best.  That’s actually the best part, the combination of the two.  I take my 5-year-old to a public skating session on Sundays and skate with him, then we have his lessons on Mondays.  I can draw a direct line between the time we spend together on Sundays and his improvements in class on Monday, and that is a really, really awesome feeling.

Q: What’s the worst/most challenging part about being a Sports Dad?

A: Selfish stuff.  Waking up on Saturday mornings for soccer when I would rather have an extra 45 mins to sleep in, and conversely, having to go to bed earlier on Friday nights knowing we are getting up early for soccer.  I realize this is just the start as early mornings and hockey are going to be worse (earlier).

The other part is the 2-year-old.  He isn’t one for the passenger seat, and while the 5-year-old is out there doing his thing, whether it’s at soccer or hockey, the little guy is bored and basically doing everything he shouldn’t be doing in an attempt to gain our attention.

Now that he plays soccer too, it’s a little bit better, but his lesson is after his big brother’s and that is a loooong 45 minutes.

Q: How do you think playing sports has benefited your kids?

A: The structure and social benefits.  Structure in that they are required to follow the rules and organization of someone else’s “show” besides their parents.  Yes, this happens at school and daycare too, but I feel this is an important thing for them to learn at play as well as at school.

The social benefits are great too.  My oldest is a social butterfly and oftentimes I wonder if he is more interested in “who’s who” more so than the sport itself.  “So and so is in Mrs. So and So’s class and I see him on the playground and now he is on my soccer team.  Oh look, it’s so and so.  He was in my skating class last year, but not this year, and now he is back in my class for hockey.”

It’s hilarious.

I often hear from other parents with older kids that some of their closest friends are parents they met through organized sports.  So, new friends for my boys and new friends for my wife and I, all under the backdrop of sports.  Can’t really find anything wrong with that.

In short, right now we are a sports family and loving every second of it.

A Closing Message From Brad

I‘d like to personally thank Kevin for picking me as one of his “Rad Sports Dads” and without a doubt consider this a great honor.  The amount of positive feedback I got for building this backyard ice rink was humbling and really highlights the fact that just being involved in our kids’ lives is one of the most important parts of the equation.  The rink was nothing major for me, and if anything, it was a tad selfish in that ice skating and hockey are passions of mine.  In the summer maybe I’ll set up two soccer nets and spray paint a box to create a backyard soccer field.  The point?  Oftentimes your passions become your kids’ passion, so whether it’s doing art projects with them or sports, just doing things together is all they want.  My advice is to not over think and believe you need to do something as involved as a backyard ice rink to create long lasting memories with your kids.  Just do something with them and the rest will take care of itself.

If you would like to read more about the adventures of Brad the Dad and his two boys, you can find me as a founding contributor on Dads Round Table.  I can be reached at bradmarmo@gmail.com and also found on TwitterFacebook, and Pinterest

Nominate The Next Rad Sports Dad!

Do you know a Rad Sports Dad? If so, drop me a line ( Kevin@SportsDadHub.com ) and let me know about him. Tell me why he should be Rad Sports Dad #3.

If you don’t know a Rad Sports Dad, maybe it’s because YOU are one! Either that or you need to find some better friends, dude. HaHa!

Thanks Brad, For Being So Rad

I’d like to thank Brad Marmo for taking the time to let us get to know him and his family a little bit. If you agree that Brad is pretty Rad, let him know by connecting with him on the networks he provided above. Brad is also a damn good writer and shares more great stuff along with some other swell fellas on Dads Round Table. Check them out.

Thanks for reading,


Backyard Rink Brad Marmo

Rad Sports Dad #1: The Trophy Dad

When I envision the ideal Sports Dad, I think of a dad like John. Today I’m going to introduce you to John and share an awesome story about him and his two boys. I think you’re going to dig it.

The First Rad Sports Dad Winner
When I started SportsDadHub I had an idea to create some kind of award for Sports Dads who represent everything SportsDadHub is about:
  • Being a dad first
  • Fueling your child’s passion for sports, second
  • Helping him become the best athlete HE wants to be, third

I didn’t know exactly when I was going to create an award like this. I kind of planned on creating it during the second year of SportsDadHub. But then John, one of the early subscribers to SDH, sent me an email. He shared an awesome and fun way that he keeps his boys focused when they’re playing sports together in their backyard.

(He didn’t send the email in an attempt to get any credit for what he did. He was simply being generous and giving me an idea for a future post to share with other Sports Dads.)

The second I read his email though, I knew that John had to be a Sports Dad Hub award winner.  So without further ado, I’d like to introduce you to the very first Rad Sports Dad winner.

John and his two boys Hendrix and Braxton.

The Trophy Dad
This is John (38). He and his wife, Tania (37) live in Denton, Texas with their two boys, Hendrix (9) and Braxton (6). (Love those names, John!)

So what makes John such a great Sports Dad? Check this out. He buys old trophies or medals from thrift shops for like a buck a piece. Then he relabels them to fit a specific backyard game that he and his boys play together.

He turns a few ordinary games of backyard baseball or kickball into an exciting 7-game championship series.

How awesome is that?

Here’s an excerpt from his email: 

“Most dads can control the outcome (of the games), you lose some, you win some so they learn how to handle both.  Of course they always come out on top at the end.  As soon as they know there is a trophy involved, game on.  Of course you can’t do this all the time because then the message is, “I get a trophy for everything.” But it’s fun now and then, and really brings out the competitive spirit. I attached a picture of our last kickball tournament trophy. I used a soccer trophy, which is actually what we used in our game.  I do pictures with them getting their trophies and make it a big ceremony.  They really love it.”

So do I, John! That is so cool.

After exchanging a few emails with John and deciding to make him Rad Sports Dad #1, I thought we could all learn from and be inspired by his awesome perspective.

Here’s a brief Q & A session I held over email with John.
If you’re like me, you’ll relate to his answers below. His story about being at the ballpark at 7:00 AM with his oldest son Hendrix gave me goosebumps. (I know, I’m weird like that.)

Q: What organized sports do your kids play?
A: Both my boys only play baseball right now, but they like football and soccer also.  

Q: What neighborhood/backyard sports do you play w/ your kids?
A: We play a lot of catch and a lot of kickball in the backyard.  My two really love some kickball! 

Kickball Champion of the World!

Q: Where did you get the awesome trophy idea?
A: I got the idea for the trophies being in a thrift store one day and seeing some awesome baseball trophies sitting there for like a dollar each.  I knew my boys would love to get a trophy for beating their dad.

Q: Can you describe your favorite Sports Dad memory so far?
A: I have two great sports memories that I will always remember.  My oldest, Hendrix, was not very good at baseball when he started playing at 7. After the first game the coach gave a gameball out to another kid and Hendrix told me he wanted to get the gameball.  So, we went to work, showing up early and staying late everyday.  I remember on gameday we were at the field at 7am.  At one point I told him to look around, there was nobody else at the fields that early.  I told him he was working harder than everyone else was and I think the message got through to him.  He got the game ball that day, and then proceeded the next game to get another gameball, the only kid who got two.  Ever since he has outworked everyone.  He is not the biggest or the strongest, but his heart is.  I always tell him his body will catch his heart one day, then lookout!!

My youngest Braxton isn’t as in to baseball as his older brother, but he is really good at it because he always gets stuck playing with Hendrix.  HAHA.  But in his first game ever in tball he turned a unassisted double play which was awesome, and he got the gameball!!!  The coach said that was the only double play he had ever seen turned in tball.  

Q: What’s the best part about being a Sports Dad?
A: The best part about being a sports dad is the life lessons you can teach through sports.  Teamwork, never giving up, hard work, how to lose.  I think they are all important to learn early on.  We all know how miserable it is when a kid doesn’t have these skills. Crying if they lose, screaming or yelling at their team, quitting when things don’t go their way.  

Q: What’s the worst/most challenging part?
A: The worst/most challenging is motivating the kids to be their best.  Kids have bad days also, and as a good sports dad you need to give them some room on those days, they can’t be the best everyday, because I sure am not.  But I have been guilty of being too hard on them from time to time, but it is something I make an effort to control.

Q: What’s one thing that would make your life as a Sports Dad easier?
A: The one thing that would make being a sports dad easier is simply more time.  Sports dads have to juggle a lot, but it is worth it, your kids are worth it.

Q: How do you think playing sports has benefited your kids?
A: Sports benefits my kids by teaching them the lessons I mentioned earlier.  Quitting is a word you rarely hear in our house.  But they have to see you never quit and apply the lessons also.  I do triathlons so they know I have a drive to push myself, and therefore it gains me more respect from them.  Also just getting kids active and outside away from video games and tv is so important.  

Thanks John!
Wow! If John isn’t a Sports Dad we can all learn from and be inspired by, I don’t know who is. I hope you enjoyed reading about him as much as I enjoyed sharing his story with you.

Tell John How Rad You Think He Is!
Give John some love by liking this post on Facebook. Share his great story with all your friends on Facebook. Great Sports Dads like him deserve to be the topic of stories, instead of the bat sh!t crazy kind we tend to hear about through the media.

You Could Be Rad Sports Dad #2
I’d love for Rad Sports Dad tributes like this one to be a regular part of SportsDadHub. But I can’t give deserving Sports Dads a tip of the cap or standing ovation without learning about them first. So if you do something rad with your kids, like John, tell me about it. Or if you want to tell me about another Rad Sports Dad, that would be awesome too.

Thanks for reading (& Liking this story on Facebook),