Coached by Dad – The Carlisle Clan Talks About What It’s Like


(This post is written by Coach Carlisle’s youngest son, Kamau Carlisle).

There’s a saying, “one joy overshadows a thousand griefs”, and it never seems more true than when you’re being coached by your own dad.

The struggles of coaching are but a distant memory when you achieve whatever goal you’ve been working so hard towards. All of the blood, sweat and tears were all instantaneously worth it. The pain of the challenge, a worthy deposit, in the bank of your self-fulfillment and growth.

By writing this, I hope that parents get a fresh take on what it’s like to be coached by a “coach parent”. Why?

The next time you ask yourself if you might be asking too much of them, you might find comfort in knowing the answer may actually be “no…and that’s okay”.

Something that I wanted to convey to other parents who are coaches and trainers (who also coach their kids) is how important it is to turn off the “coach switch” at certain times. It doesn’t have to be on 24/7. My mom came up with the brilliant idea that there could be no feedback for the first 60 minutes after every game we’d play. It created important boundaries for my dad, but it also meant that we couldn’t bring whatever negative things happened on the field or the court home with us.

When it was time to get the feedback, we always heard the positive things first. After discussing those wins, we’d hear the constructive feedback. You want your child to improve on their weaknesses, so it’s really important to first highlight their strengths.

If we hadn’t been lovingly pushed to do our absolute best, we may not have achieved the following.

Background on the Carlisle Boys

Amir: My brother Amir grew up playing football, basketball, soccer and track. He was rated by ESPN as one of the top 100 Football recruits and he played in Under Armour’s All American Game. Amir attended King’s Academy and was offered his first scholarship by Stanford University as a sophomore. He played college football at Notre Dame University (and lead them in all-purpose yards in the 2014 season) and was offered a NFL contract. He graduated from Notre Dame with a 4-year degree in Management Information Systems and now works with my dad as a Performance Coach.

Nai: Growing up, my brother Nai played basketball and track. He graduated from West Lafayette High School (next to Purdue University) and played for the West Lafayette Red Devil’s, graduating as the all time leading scorer. After graduating, he played in the prestigious Indiana All Star Game, which is a game that consists of the top 20 high school basketball players in the state. Nai was offered his first D-1 scholarship from St. Louis University when he was a freshman. He signed a 4 year basketball scholarship at San Jose State University and was there for 2 years, but transferred to Cal State East Bay for third year. He will be receiving his degree in English in the fall.

Kamau: I’m the youngest of the four and was homeschooled from K-12 and I amassed 42 college credit hours in my last two years of what would be “conventional high school” age. I went to Biola University on a track scholarship, but due to COVID-19 I wanted to be closer to home. Moving forward, I’ll be attending UC Berkeley on an athletic scholarship and will technically be starting my junior year because of all the previous hardwork from homeschooling (thanks, Mom). Growing up, I played baseball, but switched gears in 9th grade and got into track.

kamau carlisle cal berkeley
Kamau Carlisle with Dad

What was it like being coached by dad?

Amir: It was definitely tough and challenging being coached by my dad. But, this difficult process really helped me become better and learn how to work in uncomfortable situations, because he always pushed me past my comfort zone.

Nai: It was an interesting experience because he really pushed me to be better, and sometimes it got a little under my skin. But, he held me accountable which ultimately made me into a better athlete. Though it seemed hard in the moment, later on, it definitely paid off.

Kamau: Being coached by my dad was an extremely unique experience because he pushed me harder than anybody I’ve ever been coached by. With my other coaches, I could slack off a little bit. But with him, I had to give my best effort every rep or I was going to hear about it. He was also really good about switching up the “dad hat” and the “coach hat”, which goes back to the “leave it on the field” rule I mentioned earlier.

What is one thing people don’t know about dad’s coaching style?

Amir: Many people don’t know that he’s actually a really fun guy. At practice he always acts like he can speak Spanish, but in reality, he only knows one phrase.

Nai: If you don’t like to be challenged then you probably shouldn’t be coached by my dad. He has always taught us that you cannot improve if you are comfortable, which means that you’re going to have to experience some temporary pain in order to achieve your goals. So, while it might hurt and your muscles might ache, training with him definitely gets you better.

Kamau: One thing that people don’t know about my dad is that he’s always learning. He’s the definition of a 24/7 student. He doesn’t sleep much, and is sometimes up at 1am studying, watching videos, etc. I don’t know how he sleeps and he’s always working at getting better. One of his favorite sayings is “it’s not about being the best, it’s about giving your best every single day”. When you hear him say “win the day”, he means win it with everything you’ve got. As a parent, you want your kid to be the best, but it’s important to remember that everyone’s best is different.

Amir Carlisle

How did dad prepare you for collegiate athletics?

Amir: He prepared me mentally, physically, and spiritually to meet the demands of collegiate athletics. From a young age, he taught me about college athletics and how it is a business. So, I went into college with a more complete understanding of the whole process because of my dad.

Nai: All of the long car rides to and from games really helped me understand how collegiate athletics work and what colleges are looking for. Not only did he help me on the court, but he also showed me how to conduct myself off of the court to be more appealing to the college coaches. 

Kamau: My dad definitely taught me a lot about college athletics and the discipline that is required to play at the next level, and he always reminded me that collegiate athletics require 100% dedication. But even though we trained arduously, he deliberately left something in the tank so that I could still improve in college.

Nai Carlisle

Expect the best

At the end of every game, our dad is always pleased if we competed well and gave our best effort. But if we didn’t play well, we were definitely going to hear about it.

Sure, we could have gone to other coaches but talk about kicking a gift horse in the mouth.

When you have such an incredible resource at your fingertips, and one that is personally rooting for you to succeed, there really isn’t much better than that.