Barack Obama Recalls How Complaining Parents Forced Him to Quit Coaching Sasha's Basketball Team

Sean Neumann
·3 min read

Ned Dishman/Getty Images President Barack Obama talks with daughter Sasha Obama while watching a game between the Washington Mystics and the Tulsa Shock at the Verizon Center on August 1, 2010 in Washington, DC.

There just wasn’t enough “Coach Obama” to go around.

That’s, at least, according to former President Barack Obama himself.

The former president, 59, writes in his new memoir that he was once forced to quit coaching his youngest daughter Sasha’s fourth-grade basketball team after parents from the league complained.

“They must think being coached by you is something they can put on their Harvard application,” Obama’s personal aide Reggie Love teased after the pair relinquished their duties coaching the team.

Obama is set to release the first volume of his new memoir, A Promised Land, on Tuesday.

Mark Wilson/Getty Images President Barack Obama plays basketball during the annual Easter Egg Roll on the White House tennis court April 1, 2013, in Washington, DC.

In the book, Obama shares how games like billiards and basketball became a “reliable refuge” during his two terms in the White House.

But the pickup games he and Love would occasionally play were “nothing compared to the thrill—and stress—of rooting for Sasha’s” squad on Sundays.

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In a new excerpt from the book, Obama writes that he and former First Lady Michelle Obama tried hard not to be “those parents,” who yell at the refs.

Becoming too restless in the stands—constantly calling out directions to Sasha to “box out” or “get back on defense”—the president instead concocted his own game plans and briefly took over as coach along with Love.

Ron Hoskins/Getty Images Them-Sen. Barack Obama plays in a 3-on-3 Challenge for Change at Maple Crest Middle School on April 25, 2008 in Kokomo, Indiana.

“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,” Obama writes in the excerpt, published this week by The Sunday Times in the U.K.

Obama and Love would help guide his youngest daughter Sasha’s team—which also featured President-elect Joe Biden’s granddaughter Maisy—through the basics for a few hours each week. “Dribbling, passing, making sure your shoelaces were tied,” Obama remembers.

Michelle Obama/Twitter The Obamas celebrate Thanksgiving 2019

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When the team pulled out an 18-16 “nail biter” in the championship, the former president remembers how he and Love “celebrated like it was the NCAA finals,” but that not everyone was celebrating: Other parents began to complain to the school that their children didn’t have a president coaching their children's teams.

“Despite a few exasperating incidents like that, there was no denying that our status as the First Family conferred plenty of benefits,” Obama writes in the excerpt, fondly recalling after-hours trips to museums across Washington, D.C., with his daughters or getting advanced DVD copies of new movie releases to screen at the White House.

“Every parent savors such moments, I suppose, when the world slows down, your strivings get pushed to the back of your mind, and all that matters is that you are present, fully, to witness the miracle of your child growing up,” Obama writes about time spent with Sasha and his oldest daughter Malia. “Given all the time I’d missed with the girls over years of campaigning and legislative sessions, I cherished the normal ‘dad stuff’ that much more.”