When a new coach meets his new team for the first time, it’s only natural for there to be some jitters.
When a baby-faced 27-year-old, second-year head coach takes over a five-time state champion like Carol City, a team coming off its latest title and in position to go back-to-back, you can amp up the intensity of that first meeting about tenfold.
“I’m not going to lie, I was kind of worried in the beginning — just about how he would get the respect of the guys,” said Chiefs safety Randy Russell, a three-star recruit and a University of Florida commitment of the team’s first meeting with new head coach Benedick Hyppolite in March.
“But he certainly has earned it over the last couple months,” Russell continued. “Coach Hyppolite has the respect of everyone on the team. He’s practiced what he preached. He’s told us what was going to happen and he’s kept his word. We trust him. We trust him as our leader.”
Hyppolite, the youngest head coach in Miami-Dade County this season, has earned respect quickly – regardless of how young he looks. He has also had tremendous success.
Ten years ago as a senior at Booker T. Washington High he was a receiver on the school’s first FHSAA state championship football team in the fall and then a member of its first FHSAA state track and field championship team in the spring, earning All-Dade honors as a runner on the 3,200-meter relay team.
A year later, after he returned from a brief stint at Florida A&M University, Hyppolite became an assistant coach at Hallandale High at age 18. During the next eight years he coached receivers on playoff teams at Edison, Hallandale and Booker T. Washington (2013 state title team) and was the offensive coordinator at Edison and then for the Tornadoes on its last two state title teams (2014, 2015) before being named the head coach at Hallandale in 2016.
Then in March, shortly after Aubrey Hill left Carol City to become a college assistant coach at Marshall before ultimately ending up at FIU with Butch Davis, Hyppolite got the call to take over one of the three winningest programs (Booker T. and Central have also won five state titles) in Miami-Dade history.
“I think I’m ready man because the lord has blessed me and put me in this position,” Hyppolite said. “The lord blesses you as long as you’re working and making yourself available. He opens doors that can’t shut. I’ve been around the game with a great coach in Tim “Ice” Harris who has developed me on and off the football field and on the track. So I had a lot of time to learn from one of the best all-time in Dade County. I was able to sit in the back and soak in all the knowledge of X’s and O’s and the things about how to develop young people first and then athletes second.
“I’ve also coached in All-Star games with [four-time state champion] Billy Rolle, [former Edison and American coach and University of Florida assistant] Corey Bell, Uncle Luke [Norland defensive coordinator Luther Campbell], soaked up knowledge from those guys. I just think you continue to work and make yourself available at the right time and let God take care of the rest.”
Hyppolite said he broke the ice with his new talented team by throwing pizza parties and pool parties as rewards during spring practice and the summer. Then, he took them to a 7-on-7 camp at the University of Florida right after their spring game. The relationship has grown ever since.
“I think it’s a good thing what’s happening with athletic directors and principals really looking at young guys that work hard, come from good programs and have good backgrounds and giving them a shot to be head coaches earlier in life,” said Harris, 51, who now has two former assistants who are head high school football coaches in the county (Pierre Senatus is at Hialeah) and whose son Tim Jr. is a second-year assistant at FIU.
“Benedick only knows one way — that’s doing it the right way. Carol City got a good man who loves kids, loves developing kids and he's going to do an awesome job there.”
Josh Wilson of FloridaHSFootball.com said the youngest head coach in state history was Jordan Ingman, who was 22 when he was hired at Port Charlotte in 2012. Wilson said Tim Clark, who was just hired at Class 1A Branford in Suwannee County, is a couple years younger than Hyppolite.
The youngest coach in Dade history, 29-year-old Ariel Cribeiro, is now in his fifth year at Goleman. He started at 24.
Hyppolite, an Exceptional Student Education (ESE) teacher, said he earned his teaching degree a couple years ago online while he was coaching and working another full-time job. There were many days, he says, he would get up at 5:45 a.m. and not get home until 11 at night.
Hard work, he says, is something he’s not allergic to. And he’s not afraid of the expectations at Carol City.
“When we had our first parent meeting and they saw my presentation and my organization and infrastructure, they had no choice but to buy in,” he said. “very great. This is a great community with great parents. They love their school, love their children and they love winning. I think once everyone does their part, we’ll be right back where we need to be to win a title.”