President Obama talks women’s sports with ESPN

Proving once again that he is history’s coolest president, Barack Obama sat down for a podcast interview with ESPN to talk about one of his favorite topics: sports.

The interview with Bill Simmons covered everything from the president’s love for the Chicago Bulls to the pressure of throwing a decent first pitch in front of 60,000 people while wearing a bulky bulletproof vest.

We were most interested in what President Obama had to say about women’s sports. We know he’s a basketball fan and even manages to take in a Mystics game now and then.

Simmons asked the president about shooting hoops with women’s basketball championship teams when they come to the White House.

Bill Simmons: What’s the most fun [championship] team that came in? Like, what is the funniest group of athletes?
Obama: Well, you know what’s fun is when the women basketball players come in, because they’re all gorgeous and they’re all 6-foot-5 and wearing high heels. And so they’re walking around through the West Wing and everybody is wondering what the heck is going on. And when Maya Moore and the Connecticut Huskies came, we actually went down to my little basket down here and we played a game of HORSE.

BS: You played with them?
Obama: Yes, we played a game of HORSE. Now, Maya is always annoyed that I point out that I beat her. She was wearing high heels and a skirt at the time. [Laughter.] So I’m not sure if that counts.

As the father of Sasha, 10, and Malia, 13, President Obama’s interest in girls’ sports goes far beyond fandom. He understands the importance of supporting his daughters’ teams as well as encouraging them to learn about female athletes as role models.

BS: 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 and 10-year-old girls playing basketball and just fierce, just intense about it, is terrific. And last year I actually did some coaching.

BS: Really?
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 [Love] 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. 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.

BS: Really?
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.

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.

And that’s a wonderful thing to hear from our country’s commander in chief. Politics aside, I think we’re lucky to have a president who understands that participating in sports is so much more than playing games. If only we could see him in a one on one game with Michele.

What do you think of President Obama’s comments?

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