In honor of Presidents Day, we wanted to take a look at a different side of some of those that have served in the Oval Office. We can all assume that serving as Commander and Chief requires a lot of time, dedication and commitment, but let’s also assume that it takes many other attributes to succeed in this role. We can imagine that in order to effectively serve as the Head of the State you have to be disciplined, self-aware, have a positive identity and be future focused. Here at Up2Us Sports we call these traits, along with four others, High Impact Attributes. Research connects this group of attributes to sport participation and also to positive decision-making in youth and positive outcomes related to health, education, and risk prevention. So, it is no surprise to us that many of those who have served as POTUS, also played sports in their youth. Let’s take a look at 12 Presidents who played - and excelled - in sports.
Our nation’s first Chief, Washington served from 1789 to 1797. He was considered the best horseback rider in the United States at the time.
The 16th President, who stood at 6’4”, was well known for his height - which was rare at that time - and was an accomplished wrestler. Honest Abe is enshrined in the Wrestling Hall of Fame.
One of only a handful of Presidents who competed collegiately, The Rough Rider - as he was fondly known by many - boxed while at Harvard. He was also known to play tennis on the front lawn of the White House.
An avid baseball fan, the 28th President played centerfield his freshman year at Davidson College before transferring to Princeton, where he served as the President of the Baseball Association.
Eisenhower was a varsity starter at running back/linebacker at West Point. He suffered a torn knee during the 1912 season while tacking the legendary Jim Thorpe. He also tried out for the baseball team but did not make it, calling it “one of the greatest disappointments of my life, maybe my greatest.”
John F. Kennedy
Another Harvard athlete, JFK’s favorite sport was and always had been swimming. His backstroke earned him a place on what, at the time, was the greatest Freshman team in Harvard history. He also won a sailing championship with his brother Joe and played two years on the football team.
A scrappy linebacker at Whittier College in California, Nixon was primarily a benchwarmer and never actually earned his letter. His admiration for his head coach was well-known and years later after becoming President, the coach presented him with an honorary letter in Whittier football.
Arguably the most successful athlete of the Presidents, Ford was an All-American center that led Michigan’s football team to the 1933 NCAA National Championship. The three-time letterwinner and 1934 MVP had his No. 48 jersey retired. He received offers to play in the NFL, but opted instead to take a coaching position at Yale and apply to its law school.
The 40th Commander in Chief’s first job was as a lifeguard and it’s reported he performed 77 rescues over a six-year period, so it’s no surprise he was captain of the swim team at tiny Eureka College in Illinois. He also played on their football team and is a member of the International Swimming Hall of Fame.
George H. W. Bush
The elder Bush had a stellar career as a left-handed first basemen at Yale. He lead the Bulldogs to the first two College World Series games that were ever played in 1948 and 1949.
George W. Bush
A tough rugger, George Junior played fullback at Phillips Academy and at Yale. Part of Yale's’ 1st XV, he was on the 1968 team that dramatically defeated rival Harvard.
Our current POTUS is well-known for his love of basketball, with his March Madness brackets - for men AND women - always highly anticipated. A known high school standout in Hawaii, many aren’t aware that he also played while at Occidental College.
Now get out a go play a sport on this Presidents Day, in honor of our past - and present - Presidents!