By Geneva Sands - 03/26/12 05:23 PM EDT
"For those of us who grew up just as Title IX was taking off, to see the development of women role models in sports, and for girls to know if 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," Obama said.
Obama spoke to ESPN's Andy Katz for an extended interview ahead of the upcoming 40th anniversary this June of Title IX, which prohibits sexual discrimination in any federally funded educational program.
The president said one of the challenges with the law today is making sure people continue to understand its value.
"I think they [girls] take it for granted that if they become interested in a sport, if they want to pursue it and if they get good enough, they can play it in college, and that is not something that was taken for granted when I was a young boy — and that is exactly attributable to the legislation," he said.
There has been a 622 percent increase in women's participation in varsity collegiate sports and a 1,079 percent increase in high-school participation since the implementation of the landmark legislation in 1972 until the 2009-2010 season, according to ESPN.
Obama, who coaches daughter Sasha's basketball team on most Sundays, told ESPN what it's like to take on the role as coach in chief.
"This is now the third year that the team has played together, and to see them all develop at different paces, but to see them all get better and start thinking like a team and to feel good when the team does well, to pick each other up when something is not going well — you can't beat it," he said.
When pressed on what his daughters think about their famous dad taking time to coach a girls sports team, Obama said, "they take it for granted."
"With the girls, they just think of it as dad, that is what dads are supposed to do. They take it for granted," he said.