Happy Father’s Day – From Papa Mac to President Obama Empowering Daughters

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.

1st girls Illinois State Champions

1st girls Illinois State Champions

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.

Coach Mac in action

Coach Mac in action

“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!

Posted in education, inspiration, relationships, social view, sport.

37 Comments

  1. Hi Pat, thank you so much for this one! Your dad is a wonderful example for being a father! And yes, Barack Obama as well.
    Cheers from Berlin, Bette

    • Thanks Bette. Remember when the Christmas when saw us play in Nurmberg and we almost missed our connecting train back to Marburg! Great times, great memories, great friends!

  2. Hi Pat, thank you so much for this one! Your dad is a wonderful example for being a father! And yes, Barack Obama as well.
    Cheers from Berlin, Bette

    • Thanks Bette. Remember when the Christmas when saw us play in Nurmberg and we almost missed our connecting train back to Marburg! Great times, great memories, great friends!

  3. Hey…Papa Mac is stylin’ in those plaid pants.
    I have loved getting to know your Dad through sister Sue and through your writings. Aren’t we lucky…those of us who had a wonderful “Daddy”.
    Mine wasn’t a sports person, but one of the most mechanically creative persons I have known. He never though his daughters couldn’t have that talent too. During one period the old pick-up truck couldn’t be shifted into reverse unless one raised the hood and manually moved it into that gear. He never though a girl couldn’t handle such a task…if we girls wanted to go someplace that was what we did. Yes, he was a mechanic and it wasn’t long before the problem was fixed. Maybe he deliberately waited just a little while to do the repair…made us more self reliant and confident.

    • Yes Peggy…I think he wore those blue/gold plaid pants for every game & alternated between a blue or gold shirt! Be were both blessed with dads who were ahead of the times. I remember feeling short changed cause girls had to take home economics and weren’t allowed to take shop & mechanics. Hence I learned how to make toast, but remain clueless on the logistics of changing a flat tire.

  4. Hard to believe that was 40 years ago. What great memories. Thanks for sharing. Happy father’s day to all.

  5. Hard to believe that was 40 years ago. What great memories. Thanks for sharing. Happy father’s day to all.

  6. Awesome story, Pat, about awesome dads. How very lucky to have a dad who understood the possibilities of women, and actually worked on developing their abilities. Now I just have one question…which one is Karen in that picture?
    Patty

  7. Awesome story, Pat, about awesome dads. How very lucky to have a dad who understood the possibilities of women, and actually worked on developing their abilities. Now I just have one question…which one is Karen in that picture?
    Patty

    • Patty C – can’t you tell…I am the cute one with the beaming smile! hahahaha! GOSH i loved that experience!!!

  8. Pat, This is so poignant. Wish Papa Mac a Happy Father’s Day and thank him for me for all he has done to promote women’s sports. He helped you and your team mates believe in yourselves and in your abilities to make a difference as part of a team. I’ve witnessed what sports, particularly basketball has done to help my daughter play as a team member in her adult life. The lessons on the court are far reaching and build confidence. It is heartwarming to know this is the norm now! Cheers and Happy Father’s Day to Papa Mac, President Obama and all fathers who make the empowerment of their daughters a priority. You always get me fired up with your stories, Pat! 🙂

    • Thanks Kath, I will pass on your kind words to my dad. I bet if you had been allowed to play basketball back in your day, you would have a great point guard, leading the team and keeping everyone organized. So glad that your daughter was able to learn those ever valuable lessons on the court that I am sure she will pass onto the next generation of ball players.

  9. Pat, This is so poignant. Wish Papa Mac a Happy Father’s Day and thank him for me for all he has done to promote women’s sports. He helped you and your team mates believe in yourselves and in your abilities to make a difference as part of a team. I’ve witnessed what sports, particularly basketball has done to help my daughter play as a team member in her adult life. The lessons on the court are far reaching and build confidence. It is heartwarming to know this is the norm now! Cheers and Happy Father’s Day to Papa Mac, President Obama and all fathers who make the empowerment of their daughters a priority. You always get me fired up with your stories, Pat! 🙂

    • Thanks Kath, I will pass on your kind words to my dad. I bet if you had been allowed to play basketball back in your day, you would have a great point guard, leading the team and keeping everyone organized. So glad that your daughter was able to learn those ever valuable lessons on the court that I am sure she will pass onto the next generation of ball players.

  10. Awww. So cute. And then he went on to help all his grandkids in their sports too. I remember going to the rec center over Christmas when we were little and he would make his rounds to each basket, and he still makes pointers up at the cabin! Happy fathers day to the French man too 🙂

  11. I really enjoyed this one Pat. Tell, Sue & Cliff Hi and tell them that I am at White Lake, Central Wisconsin, for the long Father’s Day Weekend!
    Enjoy your time together, it won’t be long and you’ll be here in Wisconsin!

  12. I really enjoyed this one Pat. Tell, Sue & Cliff Hi and tell them that I am at White Lake, Central Wisconsin, for the long Father’s Day Weekend!
    Enjoy your time together, it won’t be long and you’ll be here in Wisconsin!

  13. What a poignant tribute to your Dad~!!! Not over-sentimental …
    and, let us pray for another term for our President. He’s had to spend more of this one cleaning up the mess he inherited.
    Love, T O P

  14. What a poignant tribute to your Dad~!!! Not over-sentimental …
    and, let us pray for another term for our President. He’s had to spend more of this one cleaning up the mess he inherited.
    Love, T O P

  15. Pat, what a fine tribute to your Father. I was very fortunate to have had to opportunity to teach with him at SHS for many years, Don’t see him too often these days, but do run in to him at the Mall one in awhile. Enjoy your summer at Summit Lake and hope to get to Rhinelander to have a great dinner at The Pub. I really enjoy all your blogs.

    • Thanks Don. I am sure he would say the same about teaching with you. I can’t wait to Escape to the Northwoods, but unfortunately school is still in session in Switzerland until the end of June. But come July, I’ll be heading back to Home Sweet Summit Lake!

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