Structure always has suited Richard Raphael. The military was a good fit. So is his job as a Miami-Dade Homicide Detective.
He was a natural, too, as a no-nonsense youth football coach.
For Raphael, discipline isn’t a buzzword, it’s a staple of life.
“He was always regimented, he was always structured,” Keith LeCounte said about Raphael, his lifelong buddy. “He believes if you are on time, you are late.”
Back in the late-1990s, LeCounte convinced Raphael to join him as a youth football coach in the North Miami Beach area. LeCounte and Raphael had attended nearby Miami Norland High School, worked together in the Miami-Dade Police Department and were interested in giving back to their community.
LeCounte said Raphael caught on quickly as a coach and, beyond that, showed a flair for the administrative side of running an organization (the North Miami Beach SunDevils).
“He made some very good connections with people,” LeCounte said. “They liked the way he ran the program, the positive budget. All the bills were paid, we didn’t owe venders. Things ran very smoothly.”
Raphael eventually transitioned from the SunDevils to a variety of board positions for its parent organization, the Miami Xtreme Youth Football League.
We started coaching in the area where we worked, where we were patrolling. The next thing you know, we fell in love with it."
Now Raphael serves as president of the Xtreme, which includes about 20 neighborhood organizations, 3,500 players and 1,500 cheerleaders.
“We started coaching in the area where we worked, where we were patrolling,” Raphael said. “The next thing you know, we fell in love with it. We were pretty successful getting the kids to come out.”
As president of the Xtreme, Raphael said his primary job is to make the game “safer and better.” He says every decision is made in the best interest of the kids.
“That’s my main vision and goal,” Raphael said. “We keep them off the streets, and they get to be involved in an organized team sport activity. I can tell you kids actively involved in sports, or any activity, is a way out. A way out of getting in trouble.”
Raphael has two sons, Richard Jr., 14, and Aden, 15 months, and a stepdaughter, Amaya, 13.
Richard Jr. plays for the SunDevils, as do a couple of Raphael’s nephews. Family and football are his passions. What about other hobbies, like golf or fishing? “I have very little time for that,” Raphael said. “I do family.”
Raphael and son, Richard Jr.
Name: Richard Raphael | Age: 43
Resides in: North Dade, Fla.
Family: Wife, Althea; sons Richard Jr., 9, and Aden, 15 months; stepdaughter Amaya, 13.
Job: Miami-Dade Homicide Detective
Interests: Football, family
Raphael played receiver at Miami Norland High School, served in the Navy for four years of active duty and spent another eight years in the reserves. He has been a member of the Miami-Dade Police Department for 20 years, the last nine as a Homicide Detective. He started coaching youth football in 1998 for the North Miami Beach SunDevils and currently serves as the president of the Miami Xtreme Youth Football League.
Raphael’s duties with the Xtreme also include overseeing the league’s website. He does most of the content posting, and has taken over the score entry duty on weekends. Delegating that task, apparently, isn’t an option for Raphael.
“If you want some things done right, you have to do it yourself,” he said. “It wasn’t being done on time. When scores come in, put it on the site, make it live. Let’s not wait a couple of days. No, let’s do it now.
“That’s just the kind of person I am. I am a military man.”
Structured. Disciplined. If you show up on time, you’re late.
That's just the kind of person I am. I am a military man."
LeCounte remembers the days when Raphael was considering a law enforcement career and volunteering as a “police explorer.” LeCounte said police explorers, who could be as young as high schoolers, assisted in community affairs as part of their inside look at the department. LeCounte’s sister was in the explorers program at the same time as Raphael. Sometimes they would drive together to events.
“Rich would be at our house at 3:30 for a 7 p.m. meeting, all dressed up and ready to go,” said LeCounte, who moved to Georgia several years ago. “My sister wasn’t really in it like Rich was.”
The Miami Xtreme Youth Football League has seen dozens of its former players go on to Division I colleges. A handful now play in the NFL. The North Miami Beach SunDevils site lists E.J. Biggers, a Washington Redskins free safety, and Louis Delmas, a free safety for the Miami Dolphins, as its NFL alumni.
Both Delmas and Biggers, among other NFLers have volunteered their time talking to the kids now playing in their old youth football program. Coaches and league officers often organize outings to local college and Miami Dolphins games.
“We teach social skills, behavior skills, how to work as a team,” Raphael said. “That’s really important, especially when you take troubled kids, kids who are having some problems at home. We are teaching them some discipline in various aspects on the team."