President Obama recently sat down with ESPN’s Bill Simmons where he talked his basketball game, Jeremy Lin and most importantly — girls’ sports. As the father to Malia, 13, and Sasha, 10, who both play soccer, the President really understands the importance of the presence of sports and fitness in young girls’ lives. Read on for Obama’s thoughts on female athletes as role models, the outstanding competitors in his family and more:
Bill Simmons : I pride myself as being a very supportive parent. I go to my daughter’s soccer games. I hit most of them. I try to go to all of them. I can’t go to — I read that you go to every one of your daughter’s basketball games. This can’t be true. How do you go to every basketball game? I feel bad about my own parenting.
Obama: First of all, they only play on Saturday morning. And usually I have to work on Saturday, but I can push my schedule back, so unless I’m traveling, I can go. And, man, I have fun at those games. Watching 9, 10-year-old girls playing basketball and just fierce, just intense about it, is terrific. And last year I actually did some coaching.
Obama: Yes, well, what happened was the coach for our team was this wonderful woman and she works at the National Institutes of Health — has never played basketball, but had volunteered, and was doing a great job. But Reggie and I would be sitting in the stands and we’d be passing her notes and whispering. And finally she said, all right, why don’t you guys — so we took them to a local gym on Sundays and started running some practices. And so when she was gone, I’d actually sit in as the coach. And you know what’s amazing is how much more stressful coaching and watching these girls was than when I was playing.
Obama: You just want them to win so bad. And when they actually run a play and it works — [laughter] — you’re just ecstatic. And a couple of heartbreaking losses and you’re just feeling terrible. But they’re wonderful. And what’s great is that women’s athletics, girls’ athletics, I think makes all the difference in the world. I’m 50 now, so I went to high school in the '70s. We actually went to — I went to a school that had a strong women’s sports team. But it was still not the norm for a lot of girls to participate in a lot of sports teams, and now it’s just second nature. And they're healthier for it. They learn competition. They learn how to bounce back from adversity. It’s just — it’s a terrific thing to see.
And they’ve got so many role models now because there are so many unbelievable female athletes out there, and they can see that there’s no contradiction between them being strong and tough and beautiful and confident. Yes, it’s a wonderful thing to see.
BS: Well, you married into good genes, right?
BS: Your wife has some height. She’s six feet, 6-foot-1?
Obama: She’s 5-foot-11.
Obama: But my brother-in-law, who's the coach at Oregon State —
BS: He played.
Obama: He played at Princeton, and then played overseas for a while. He’s 6-foot-6. So they’re potentially great athletes. The best athlete in our family is actually my niece, my brother-in-law’s daughter, who lives out in Oregon, out in Corvallis, and she’ll be D-1. This is one of these things where she has to decide, does she want to play softball, volleyball, or basketball. But she’s just — she’s good at everything. Unbelievable.
Interview excerpt from taken from Grantland: Bill Simmon's and Barack Obama.