Obama talks fatherhood - and why he helps coach Sasha's basketball team

Ahead of Father's Day, Obama said in his weekly address that children need parents' time and love, plus structure. Hmm. Do 'structure' and 'youth basketball' with 10-year-olds go together?

J. Scott Applewhite/AP
President Obama walks across the White House lawn with his youngest daughter Sasha in April.

President Obama talked about the rewards and responsibilities of being a dad in his weekly radio address on Saturday. Do you think maybe he wanted to make sure Sasha and Malia don’t forget that Sunday is Father’s Day?

Anyway, he said our children need our time, our unconditional love, and the structure that only parents can provide. As in, “No, you can’t use the Situation Room computers to log into ‘Poptropica!’ and “You are not wearing that T-shirt to dinner with Prime Minister Merkel. Its holes have holes.”

Mr. Obama noted that, growing up, he felt keenly the absence of his own father, who left the family when the young Barack was only two. That’s one reason he recently served as an assistant coach on Sasha’s basketball team, he said.

“On Sundays, we’d get the team together to practice, and a couple of times, I’d help coach the games,” Obama said in his weekly. “It was a lot of fun – even if Sash rolled her eyes when her dad voiced his displeasure with the refs.”

Hmmm – the nation’s commander-in-chief as assistant coach of a sports team for 10-year olds. How did that work?

True, Obama does play basketball, so he might know what’s doing. But in our experience, being an assistant coach in that situation does not mean drilling a squad of intense athletes in the finer points of the pick-and-roll.

No, the assistant coach of kid teams is responsible for two things: bringing snacks and providing adult supervision if the head coach can’t make it.

A president might do OK on the former. That’s something that can be planned in advance. The White House staff might even convene meetings as to which option is more politically acceptable: chips or orange slices.

But as to covering for the real coach, that’s tougher. Imagine the scene: Obama is in the midst of a tense Oval Office meeting with House Speaker John Boehner. They’re talking about how many trillions they’re going to have to cut from the national budget. The hot line rings, with this message: “Bert’s under the weather. Can you handle the game with Holton-Arms today?”

And one last thing: Obama noted that he embarrassed his daughter by yelling at the refs. She is 10. When the players are that age it is generally unacceptable for parents to get mad at refs, umps, or opposing coaches.

Not that they don’t. Every game has that one parent who is really competitive and points out the slightest perceived infraction, to the embarrassment of everyone else.

But in Washington, in our experience, most of those people are just lawyers – not lawyers who happen to be president of the United States.

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