Remembered for his 40-plus years as a coach and teacher, the late longtime Malvernite Colbert Britt will be honored at this year’s Homecoming on Oct. 14. On July 11, the Board of Education unanimously voted to approve the renaming of Malverne High School’s football field Colbert J. Britt Jr. Memorial Field.
“I think this is probably the biggest thing to happen in Malverne since the schools were desegregated,” said current varsity football coach Kito Lockwood, who coached with Britt. “He’s a man that was a true professional, he was very humble, and he sacrificed his time to help mentor and coach the children of our community.” More than 1,000 people signed a petition to support the renaming of the field.
Britt, who died in 2015 at age 76, coached the high school’s football and track teams while working as a phys. ed. teacher at Howard T. Herber Middle School.
“I really had no idea how much influence my dad had on this community,” said his daughter, Alma. “To hear about how he was a father figure to so many young men, it lifted my spirits to know that he was that kind of man to a lot of people.”
Alma coaches the girls’ varsity track team, and continues to promote her father’s values. “He did everything from his heart,” she said. “He didn’t do it for any accolades — he did it because it was the right thing to do.”
District Superintendent Dr. James Hunderfund said that because of Britt’s legacy and his commitment to the students over the years, it was an easy decision for the board to approve the name change. “You wouldn’t know he had so much history of achievement and legacy as a leader in our schools and our athletic programs,” Hunderfund said, “because he was an extremely self-effacing, humble man.”
The superintendent added that while he considered Britt to be something of a taskmaster, he did it in a way that made it clear to children that he cared for them. “He wouldn’t allow students to drift off and not be task-oriented,” Hunderfund said. “But at the same time, he would give them a lot of praise and encouragement if they tried and participated, and he did it all with a smile.”
“You won’t find too many kids that didn’t like him over his 40 years of coaching,” said Britt’s widow, Norma. “He was always such a great person, who deserves this honor.”
Britt’s legacy on and off the field, Norma said, goes hand in hand with the values that he promoted in the community. “Because we’re a very diverse community, I look at the football field as a good place to celebrate the integration of the black and white communities,” Norma said. “The other fields serve a purpose, but the football field is used for everything. That field represents what Colbert was all about.”
Thanks to his dedication to the community over the years, Lockwood said, several years ago, the football team adopted the slogan “Blood for Britt,” a variation on the phrase “blood, sweat and tears.”
As Malverne prepares for its Homecoming celebration, Lockwood added, he hopes students can keep Britt’s legacy alive. “It’s not ironic that he’s passed away and he’s still motivating people,” he said. “His legend will live forever.”