When I saw the espnW interview with President Obama coaching his 10-year-old daughter, Sasha’s basketball team, I cried; it reminded me so much of my dad and me. However, forty years ago, dads teaching daughters jump shots were anomolies. Most fathers discouraged daughters from playing ball games because society deemed it unladylike.
Like my dad and I, first the President cheered on Sasha from the sidelines, then he offered pointers to the team at the White House on Sundays and, finally, he coached the team from the bench, shouting aphorisms my father once pronounced, « Work the ball inside. Don’t take those crazy long shots. »
“Girls just take it for granted,” President Obama said, “and maybe that is a good thing that girls grow up knowing they have equal rights on the court.”
But it is hard to appreciate what you got.
Four decades ago, when my dad hollered,” Quit marching down court like a battle line. Spread the wings. Get ahead of the ball,” my team learned how to fly on the fastbreak.
Slowly, times changed. In 1977, five years after Title IX’s passage, my dad co-coached my younger sister, Karen’s team to a first ever high school state championship at my alma mater Illinois State University.
My dad shaped values in the athletes he nurtured during his 33-year career at Sterling High School. His endearing relationship with his championship girls’ team earned him the affectionate title of Papa Mac. In his four years of coaching girls’ basketball, my dad’s teams racked up, 1 State championship, a 3rd place and an Elite Eight appearance. Then he retired, but not before girls basketball put Sterling on the map. Championship teams brought honor to the town and high school, but what made Papa Mac proudest was seeing how his athletic girls grew up to offer contributions to society as principals, teachers, social workers and leading members of their communities.
When I was 10 years old, I dreaded my 11th birthday because I thought I would have to exchange my high tops for heels, forfeit my dreams and stop shooting jump shots. Papa Mac helped open the door of athletic opportunity for me and my younger sisters.
“Play hard, shoot straight, aim high!” he encouraged.
Four decades later, our 44th head of the nation echoed those words. President Obama deemed it important enough to take time out from running world affairs to coach his daughter’s team. That example speaks volumes about how far we have come.
“I am a huge believer that sports ends up being good for kids, and especially good for girls. It gives them confidence, it gives them a sense of what it means to compete. Studies show that girls who are involved in athletics often do better in school; they are more confident in terms of dealing with boys. And, so, for those of us who grew up just as Title IX was taking off, to see the development of women’s role models in sports, and for girls to know they excelled in something, there would be a spot for them in college where they weren’t second-class, I think has helped to make our society more equal in general,” the President said.
“I think the challenge is making sure that, in terms of implementation, schools continue to take Title IX seriously … and 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.”
Remarkably back in the controversial years when Title IX was in its early infancy, when girls and ball games were non compatible entities, Papa Mac’s adamant belief in women’s right to participate in sports empowered all of his daughters.
Happy Dad’s Day Papa Mac and, oh yeah, thanks for the jump shot, too!