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Barack Obama coached daughter's hoops team to title, but parents forced him to quit

Cassandra Negley
·Writer
·3-min read

Former President Barack Obama had a successful coaching career a while back, leading his daughter’s elementary school team to a championship. But not everyone was impressed a coach was giving his attention to only one team and the career became short-lived.

Obama shared the story in his new memoir, “A Promised Land,” that was released Tuesday. The Sunday Times released the book excerpt about coaching and Entertainment Weekly acquired the audio version.

Obama is a basketball aficionado who has spoken on the NBA and WNBA’s social activism.

Barack Obama, his daughter Sasha and a friend from 2010.
Former President Barack Obama coached his daughter, Sasha, on her fourth-grade basketball team. This photo is a Washington Mystics game on Aug. 1, 2010, around the time he coached her. (REUTERS/Richard Clement)

Obama coached fourth-grade team while in office

The former president and Michelle Obama at first attended fourth-grade games their youngest daughter, Sasha, played in while at Sidwell Friends School in Washington. It was around 2010, during Obama’s first term in office.

He said they’d shout the typical reminders at Sasha — box out, get back on defense — and overall tried “our best not to be ‘those parents,’ the kind yelling at the ref.”

At a certain point, Obama decided to do more than sit in the stands. He enlisted his aide Reggie Love, a former Duke standout on the 2001 NCAA championship team.

“After observing an adorable, but chaotic, first couple of games, Reggie and I took it upon ourselves to draw up some plays and volunteered to conduct a few informal Sunday afternoon practice sessions with the team. We worked on the basics: dribbling, passing, making sure your shoelaces were tied before you ran onto the court.

“And although Reggie could get a little too intense when we ran drills — ‘Paige, don’t let Isabel punk you like that’ — the girls seemed to have as much fun as we did.”

When the Vipers won the league championship, an 18-16 “nail-biter,” the two “celebrated like it was the NCAA finals.”

Parents upset coaching differences weren’t fair

By the nature of politics, Obama missed a lot of Sasha and older daughter Malia’s childhoods while he was campaigning. He wrote in his memoir, “I cherish the normal dad stuff that much more,” given all the time he wasn’t fully present.

But the coaching stint he took on to spend time with his daughter and her friends, which included President-elect Joe Biden’s granddaughter Maisy, turned into drama.

Obama explained:

“But of course nothing about our lives was completely normal anymore as I was reminded the following year, when, in true Washington fashion a few of the parents from a rival Sidwell team started complaining to the Vipers coaches and presumably the school that Reggie and I weren’t offering training sessions to their kids, too.

“We explained that there was nothing special about our practices. That it was just an excuse for me to spend extra time with Sasha. And we offered to help other parents organize practices of their own.”

He said it became clear that the complaints went beyond basketball. Reggie, he said, mentioned the idea “they must think being coached by you is something they can put on a Harvard application.” Plus the Vipers’ coaches felt stuck in between. So believing it was “simpler for all concerned,” he went back to being a fan with Michelle.

Certainly the Vipers had the experience of a former Duke champion as well as a man whose brother-in-law coached Oregon State for six seasons. That’s a benefit not all teams are afforded. But what about teams in other places with former top-tier champions coaching teams, or extra coaching on the side outside of practice?

Much of life isn’t fair and even. The guy was just trying to spend time with his daughter on an activity they both enjoyed.

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