On most weekends in Washington, President Obama trades in his suit and tie for athletic pants, a ball cap and a whistle as coach of his daughter Sasha’s basketball team. And in spite of all the demands of being commander-in-chief, and campaigning for a second term, he reportedly has not missed a game all year.
“With the girls, they just think of it as dad, that is what dads are supposed to do. They take it for granted,” Obama said of the experience in an interview with ESPN’s Andy Katz.
“But what was fun, this is now the third year that the team has played together, and to see them all develop at different paces, to get better and start thinking as a team and to feel good when the team does well, to pick each other up when something is not going well, you can’t beat it,” he said, “you can’t beat the satisfaction.”
Obama said he first got involved with the team when he realized the girls’ coach — a parent volunteer who works for the National Institutes of Health — didn’t have any basketball experience.
“We’d see somebody playing a zone, our girls wouldn’t know where to go, so I would go over and whisper to the coach,” he said. “On Sunday, we would have them over to the gym over here and we’d run drills and we’d run plays.”
Coach Obama says his philosophy is to hammer home the basics – dribbling, passing and boxing out. “Making sure that they are not practicing shooting 3-pointers when they can barely get the ball to the basket,” he told Katz. “The whole theory was, don’t practice shots that you are not going to take in a game.”
The president also said that he is not afraid to be critical of his players on the court, but uses humor to soften the blow. “There were times where I would pretend to do what they were doing and the balls would land on their heads, or this is how they would rebound without jumping or paying attention to who they are supposed to be boxing out and they would start laughing,” he said.
While it’s unclear how long Obama has been coaching the team, first lady Michelle Obama told supporters in Florida last month that he “hasn’t missed a game.” Sasha, 10, and Malia, 13, both attend the prestigious Sidwell Friends School in Washington.
President Obama and Katz also discussed the upcoming 40th anniversary of Title IX, which mandates equal opportunity for women and girls in collegiate athletics.
“I think the challenge is making sure that, in terms of implementation, schools continue to take Title IX seriously,” Obama said of the law. “I think understanding that this is good, not just for a particular college, not just for the NCAA, [but that] it is good for our society, it will create stronger, more confident women. I think that is something that I just want to make sure everybody understands.”
“What happened as a consequence of Title IX is that the media started paying more attention to women’s sports, women’s athletics, [women's sports] started being shown on television, it got more widespread acceptance, and I think people’s recognition that women could be just as good at competing [and] just as fun to watch,” he said.