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Stillness in movement

Brent Barry is the Reliability Senior Superintendent at Nutrien, Couva, a demanding job yet he still makes time to enjoy his passion: sports. Any sport! He chats with Associate Editor Simone Delochan about his forays into the local scene of football, rugby and riding, and the spirituality he experiences.

 

So tell me a little bit about your Catholic background.

BB: My parents are staunch Catholics and Lay Ministers at St Anthony’s/Church of Nativity. I went to Newtown Boys’ RC  and St Mary’s College. I did  First Communion and Confirmation. My kids are also raised Catholic.

My parents were a COR [Christ Our Redeemer] uncle and aunt. I did COR at 16. It was incredible. All the friends that I made back then are friends to this day.

 

You are an engineer at Nutrien. How demanding is your job?

BB: It is very demanding because those plants are 50 years old. Coming out of the Russia/Ukraine war, prices of ammonia went high because there was an embargo on the crops coming out of Russia, and the world had to find food. Ammonia is a feedstock for fertiliser, so we could not make enough at that point in time, and there was a big demand. I’m the reliability senior superintendent there. It’s just to make sure that the plants are of some integrity, so we have the longevity and the integrity to continue to produce.

 

How did your sporting life begin?

BB: I was at Newtown Boys’, and they had a football league. Newtown Boys’ decided to put together a team, and they asked for all the students in football clinics or academies, of which Harvard Football Clinic was one of the foremost. Shaka Hislop went to Harvard and people like Brian Lara came out of Harvard. I joined and started training.

Later, I wanted to play for St Mary’s. I just continued to train hard. They always say, prayer works in mysterious ways or God works in mysterious ways. But you pray for it, but you work hard for it. It’s prayer and action. I started to play under 14 and then I started to play under 16. Next time, I played with the big side.

I really wanted to go abroad on scholarship. We had a recession and a lot of people who may have gone abroad decided to do university locally. The crop of players that went to UWI at that point in time were the pick of the schools. You had players that might have gone on scholarship from Presentation, St Benedict’s, St Mary’s, Fatima, and so forth. As a result of that, the UWI team was a strong team. We won out the inter-campus games. I think we played unbeaten for a couple of years in the tertiary level schools league. It was incredible.

 

You branched from football to rugby….

BB: How I started playing rugby, which is the sport that I played at the highest level, I was injured. I got an in-step injury, so I couldn’t kick. There was one fellow that went to Newtown Boys’ RC as well, Gerald Yetming. He was literally the only person that I knew in Caribs Rugby Team.

He said, ‘Brenty, you’re interested?’ I said, ‘No, Gerald, I’m not’. He said, ‘Well, what are you doing this weekend? Come on, let’s watch a game’. After, they said, ‘The season is about to start. We’re going to have our first game’. That was a Thursday. The first game was Saturday at UWI, against UWI. I came to the clubhouse where they were assembling. The team was short, and Gerald said, ‘Brent, you have gears?’ I said, ‘Well, I always have gears in my car for football’.

And he said, ‘Well, if you have a pair of boots, we will give you a uniform, and you will come and play rugby’. I didn’t even know the laws of the game. Simone, we are walking onto the field, and I see the UWI team and there’s this massive guy who looks like about 8 feet tall.

Gerald said, ‘Brent, do not worry. You will be fine. You are playing on the wing. You’re not going to get any ball outside there’. Gerald goes up, catches the ball, and I just see about five men heading straight for Gerald. Gerald looks up, looks at me, throws me the ball, and says, ‘Run!’

That literally was my opening introduction into rugby.

 

You said that you played it at the highest level. What does that mean exactly?

BB: I became a student of the game. Started playing First Division rugby. Eventually, I was able to break into the squad. I guess once you started to play at that level, then the national coach starts to pay attention. Then I got a call up to the training squad for the national team. Then got broken to the national team and then started to tour. I saw a lot of the world playing rugby. My first official tour was, I think, about ’21, ’22. I went to Ireland. I got the opportunity to go and play against teams from Namibia and Ireland and England. It was incredible.

There’s something about a tour that makes you develop, makes you grow, it matures you, and it forms bonds. I take that concept with me every day. You have a team even in your professional life, even in your spiritual life. You have a group of people that you want to work together,  take them somewhere else…. Let’s have certain things where you literally have to work together in order to achieve some outcome. You take people out of the element and you start to see where other strengths lie. You start to see their real personality.

I got selected to come on a trial with the West Indies team, and they picked me to go on a tour to South America. And that was incredible because they had West Indian players who came from the UK, up the region, and then, of course, from Trinidad as well.

 

What other activities do you do?

BB: Because of the contact nature of rugby, your body could only take so much. When I did eventually retire, I said, ‘What am I going to do now?’ I decided, ‘You know what? I’ll start riding’. At that time, I was working at BHP. Their headquarters in Houston had a cycling team that took part in something called the MS150 which is a bike ride from Houston to Austin, Texas. And it is meant to raise funds for people who have multiple sclerosis.

My colleague Hayden had been riding for years. One day, we’re in the kitchen and there’s this girl and she says she wants to do it.  She didn’t even know how to ride. She started to train. Hayden had her on a programme, quietly.

Next thing, MS150 time, she goes on vacation. They come back; she has completed 150 miles. When that happened, I said, I want to do this. Since then, I’ve done six MS150s.

 

What is the benefit you see in getting people involved in sports, especially recreationally?

BB: The benefit is getting people in sport and loving it. I think once that starts to happen, you turn out better thinkers, healthier people, better managers, better people that will grow up to be adults that will contribute. When I hire people that have been involved in team sports and stuff like that, they’re better team players in the work world. One of the things I always think about, very much like in our spiritual life, is that in sport, the Holy Grail in sports is for you to be consistently performing. Even in our spiritual life. I mean, you have good days and you have bad days, right?

But in your journey towards being a better Catholic, a better person of God, it is about keeping that consistency. You’re not always going to get it right. You’re not always going to be as empathetic as you should be. You’re not always going to be as forgiving as you should be. But if you practise it over and over, then you achieve the level of consistency. I think crime would go down because it [sport] gives people an avenue to express themselves. It’s fraternities that you form, a community that you form, through sport.

When your body is in motion, your mind must be at rest. They call it being ‘in flow’. Amidst all the noise, you have to find that calm… just like in prayer life.