The Malverne School District’s Board of Education voted unanimously on July 11 to rename the high school’s football field to the Colbert J. Britt Jr. Memorial Field.
Known affectionately in the community as Coach Britt, he was hired in 1972 as a physical education teacher at Howard T. Herber Middle School and remained there until his retirement on June 30, 2005. Through the decades, Britt coached numerous junior varsity and varsity teams, and continued doing so for 10 more years after his formal retirement.
The effort to rename the field in his honor began Sept. 14 last year, which was, coincidentally, the birthday of his widow, Norma Britt. “I don’t think it took five days before they got more than 750 signatures,” Norma said after the July 11 board meeting. “I was just beside myself.” The petition had more than 1,100 signatures when it was given to the Malverne School District, board officials said.
Norma and Colbert Britt had been married for 30 years before he died on December 27, 2015. “I miss him terribly and I’m dealing with it well now, but last year, it really hit me hard that he wasn’t coming back,” she said. “But when [Malverne High School Coach] Kito Lockwood dedicated the season to him, and they printed ‘Love for Britt’ T-shirts, and then they started the petition to rename the field — how could I feel sad?”
Norma said one of the many reasons her husband was so loved was due to his ability to befriend the kids and while bringing out the best in them. “He wanted to win, but it wasn’t going to be at any cost,” she said. There was always a value system, she said, where her husband was satisfied knowing that his athletes had tried their best.
“He was able to relate to the kids, which not all older people are able to do – and I’m telling you – they loved him for it,” she added.
Britt, who was raised in the segregated south, had among his achievements the 1990 Varsity Football Rutgers Cup Championship and trained 1996 Olympic Gold Medalist Derrick Adkins. He was a founder of the Friendship Games, an annual series of track and field events, and was a charter member of the Lakeview Youth Federation.
In addition to Norma, Britt is survived by his daughter, Malverne teacher and coach Alma Britt.
A dedication ceremony for the football field will be held Saturday, Oct. 14 as part of the district’s homecoming festivities.