Arima, Trinidad–born and bred
Dr. Cliff Bertrand is fortunate to have been on both sides of the sporting and education divides. As a Trinidad & Tobago Olympian and a New York City Board of Education School Administrator. He did his undergraduate work at New York University. His graduate work at Brooklyn College, Yeshiva University of Social Sciences, NYU and Columbia University where he accumulated quite a vocabulary of experiences. He is an ABA certified law student, Queens College, Cuny.
Dr. Cliff Bertrand is a grassroots product of Arima Boys RC Primary School, Ideal and Progressive Educational Institute where he excelled at football representing the NFL. He competed at Track & Field.
He was a member of the only West Indies Federation Olympic Team to Rome Olympics in 1960. He returned to the Olympics in Tokyo four years later representing Trinidad & Tobago. He declined the offer to compete at the 1968 Olympic Games in Mexico.
He started his teaching career at Tunapuna Govt Secondary School at El Dorado Rd, Tunapuna teaching Science and Health. Mr Alleyne was the Principal. He founded a netball team which won the T&T Secondary School Netball Championship. Lystra Lewis was the organizer from the Ministry of Education. He developed a track and field team that won the Secondary School Championship for 2 consecutive years in the Girls Division.
He founded Abilene Wildcats Athletic Club in his home town of Arima, Trinidad.
He coached Track & Field at Jamaica High School in Queens, NY, city champs, NYC Youth Games Tack & Field Team, National Champs. He coached Martin Luther King Jr. High School to ten consecutive Borough Soccer Championships.
Cliff was acclaimed Coach Of The Year by the PSAL – Public School Athletic League of New York City. He received the Mayor’s Citation of New York City for his contribution to sports. Under the Abraham Beam Administration, he was the Head Coach of the NY City Youth Games Team Championship in Baltimore. He was awarded the Martin Luther King Jr. award for his contribution to sports in NY State.
He was the first Caribbean athlete to be the head coach of a major institution at the NCAA Division 1 Level in Track & Field and Cross Country, NYU.
Contributed by Dr. Cliff Bertrand
Dr. Cliff Bertrand shares his Insights on Track & Field Sports, and Education, having been a Trinidad & Tobago Olympian, and a New York City School Administrator.
… it triggered the athletic career of sprinter Cliff
BY ELMA REYES
“Money or the box?” Jim Bryan, the Pick-a-Box host, asked the young contestant.
“Money!” the boy said without hesitation, “I’ll take the money.”
He knew that the box would contain either a valuable gift or some bit of rubbish – The “booby prize”. Either way, he did care less.
As he took the money and stepped offstage, the audience gasped. The rejected box revealed an expensive radio.
But the young man, a hopeful sprinter could not care less.
He was lost in a daze as he realized that the twenty-two dollars which he had won made what had been a wistful dream a reality.
The night was 16 August 1955.
A few weeks before, he had outpaced athletic stalwarts of St. Mary’s College – Hugo Blaize, Selwyn Heywood and Knolly Barnes.
A friend who sometimes lent him his track-shoes had not been able to do on that occasion, so he had sprinted BARE-FOOTED.
The track shoes had cost exactly $22, and after buying them this ambitious young man had a spell of bad luck. This was interrupted briefly by the swift series of successes in May 1955, which led to his being promoted from Juniors B to A Class.
Cliff Bertrand’s subsequent success now forms part of Trinidad’s sporting history.
Cliff, a modest and friendly young man, is among the most popular of Arima’s native sons.
He enjoys the meditative solitude of the fisherman, dancing, (“although I do not dance very well”), and lots of reading. He particularly relishes philosophy and works which deal with physical education.
He has never played ‘mas’ although he admits ‘jumping up’ on Carnival nights.
Cliff is grateful to the teachers who first made him interested in sports. These were Messrs. John Brooks, Sulan Assue, and Roderick Ruiz, all of whom were his teachers at the Arima Boys’ Roman Catholic School.
“It was at school that I first developed the will to compete,” Cliff said. “We ran for simple prizes like copybooks and pencils every Friday afternoon.
“At Progressive High School, I once met an interested teacher. He was Bertie Thompson, and he trained me almost every evening after school.”
It is typical of Cliff that he tries to pass on all that he has learnt in the field of athletics to interested persons.
He is never too busy to help schools and other organisations with athletic training, or any other problem concerning sport. At present, he assists his friends Cecil Walker and Ray Watkins and Father Murphy of the Holy Cross College in conducting clinics for the Abilene Club.
Membership of this Club is not limited to any particular age group, although the largest proportion are teenagers.
“If young people have some active and healthy hobby, they are not likely to get themselves into trouble,” he said.
Cliff has a great many friends and enjoys making them. He likes most people, and judges a man by what he is and not by his appearance or social standing.
He is a graduate of the New York University, where he obtained his Bachelor’s degree in Physical Education.
“I was poor as a child, and although I always wished to be a University graduate, it seemed beyond my wildest dreams,” Cliff said.
It was through his athletic prowess that Cliff obtained a scholarship to study at the New York University.
“Once a boy scout, Cliff views with approval the rules pf the movement.
“The Scout laws have helped me greatly, particularly in discipline,” he said.
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