Good Evening
Good Evening
SportsHigh SchoolFootball

Joe III and Jeff Cipp follow father Joe's coaching path

Jeff Cipp, left, Joe Cipp Sr., center, and

Jeff Cipp, left, Joe Cipp Sr., center, and Joe Cipp Jr., right, pose in the family trophy room on Tuesday, Nov. 11, 2014. Credit: Richard T. Slattery

The coaching seeds were planted in the den at the Cipp home on Beaver Dam Road, adjacent to Bellport High School. That's where Joe Cipp's two sons not only watched cartoons on TV as kids but also viewed the flickering images of old film every Sunday and learned that part of their father's success as a high school football coach was built on reviewing game film. Over and over again.

"I remember when he would watch film with his coaches in the den,'' said Joe III, 46. "We'd just sit on the floor and hear everybody talking football. Not that we knew what was going on, but being exposed to it and growing up in that kind of environment, the idea of coaching wasn't scary. It was just what you do."

Joe III is the older of the football-coaching Cipp brothers. Each earned a No. 1 seed for last year's playoffs and was voted Coach of the Year, Joe III for Division II Bellport and Jeff, 42, for Division I Longwood.

"I remember the coaches' meeting at the house on Sundays,'' Jeff Cipp said with a laugh. "I don't really remember the film, but I do remember the doughnuts."

Both brothers have memories of playing on the equipment at Bellport's field. "We would wrestle on the practice dummies when we were little,'' Joe Cipp III said. "We'd build forts and just dive into them."

Sometimes they'd dive into each other. "There were a few injuries," Jeff said. "We'd say, 'Uh-oh, we can't tell Daddy we got hurt.' ''

These days, they tell Daddy everything, sometimes right on the spot. Joe Cipp watched nearly every Bellport and Longwood game last year and plans on doing it again this season.

"He's always on the sidelines and it's a welcome thing,'' Joe III said. "He's going to see things I may not see and he'll always have input if he wants it. When they see him come onto the field, he commands respect. They still stand for him when he comes into our meetings or film sessions."

Longwood's players don't have the same relationship with Joe Cipp, the winningest coach in Suffolk public school history with 211 victories, but they see him every weekend. "When the game is going on, we really don't have any interaction,'' Jeff said, "but at the end of each game, he always says, 'Good job.' That's it."

When Joe III and Jeff played for their father, neither thought they'd become branches of a family coaching tree. "In high school, I just wanted to play. In college, I just wanted to play," said Joe III, who played at Ithaca. "When college was over, there definitely was a void, and coaching helped fill that void."

Jeff was similarly driven. "When I was young, I didn't really think about being a coach. It was all about wanting to be a football player," said Jeff, who played at Kentucky and Maine. "Since I was going to be a phys ed teacher, coaching kind of goes along with that.''

Joe Cipp, 67, is justifiably proud of what his sons have accomplished, and he especially enjoyed last year because it was the first in which both were head coaches at the same time. They were assistants on his staff from 2004-06 and 2009-10. Bellport went 41-12 in those seasons, with three county and two Long Island titles. Joe III was the offensive coordinator and Jeff was the defensive coordinator. Their dad retired after the 2010 season.

"There's a sense of pride because they're doing something that I did and I can relate to it," the elder Cipp said. "And they went into education, like I did. Coaching is just a branch of education. The football field is their classroom. The plays and getting kids to learn is their blackboard."

Both sons work in the Longwood school district. Joe III is a special-education teacher and Jeff is a physical education instructor.

With their coaching success comes built-in stress, something their father still experiences. "People say to me, 'You've got two sons, so you've got two chances to win every week,' '' Cipp said. "I think of it as having two chances to lose. It's hard on me."

It was hard on all three Cipps last November when Longwood and Bellport were upset in the county semifinals the same weekend. Still, the elder Cipp enjoys sharing the coaching journey with both boys.

"How many people have two sons that are head football coaches?" Joe Cipp said. "It doesn't happen too often. I guess I didn't scare them away from the profession."

More high schools