Charles Sands grew up playing tennis and excelled in all types of racquet sports in his secondary and college years.
Upon graduating from Columbia College (later Columbia University) in 1887, he competed on the U.S. tennis tour, playing in events across the country and reaching the quarterfinals of the U.S. Open in 1894.
In March of 1899 Sands applied for a passport to spend an “indefinite” period of time in France. Before the year would end, he became the first American to win France’s highest award for court tennis—Racquette D’Or—equivalent to the national championship. He would win the Racquette D’Or again the following year. In the 1900 Paris Olympics, he entered three tennis events: men’s singles, men’s doubles and mixed doubles, but was defeated in the first round in each.
Following the Olympic Games, Sands sailed home to New York and competed regionally on the U.S. Tennis tour, winning the 1901 Senior Championship at Newport. He returned to France in 1902 and won an unprecedented third Racquette D’Or. Back in the U.S. in 1903, he defeated Oliver Campbell to win the first U.S. Gold Racquets court tennis championship. In August of that year he and Mrs. Reginald Brooks won the Mixed Doubles Championship at Newport. Continuing his dominant play in court tennis, he won the U.S. National Court Tennis Championship in 1905 and placed second in the event in 1906. In 1908, at the age of 43, he competed in Jeu De Paume (Court Tennis) at the London Olympic Games, losing in the first round. In so doing, he became one of only two Americans to have competed in three sports in two separate Olympic Games.
Charles Sands retired from active tennis competition in 1911.