St. Aloysius track coach Michael Fields elected to MAC Hall of Fame
Published 4:00 am Saturday, November 25, 2023
When he was asked how many track and field state championships he’s won, Michael Fields had an honest answer.
“I’ve forgot over time,” he said.
The answer is seven, enough that it’s understandable if Fields has lost count. His response wasn’t rooted in swagger, though. It came from a place of humility that has helped make him one of Mississippi’s best coaches for the past 35 years and now one of the best of all time.
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Fields, who is currently pulling double duty coaching St. Aloysius’ track and field and Raymond High School’s football teams, has been elected to the Mississippi Association of Coaches Hall of Fame.
“When you get an accolade like that, it’s telling you that you’re on the right journey and the kids you’ve dealt with are being successful,” Fields said. “If the kids are not being successful, and the school system you’re working in is not being successful, nobody notices what you’re doing. So that’s letting me know we’ve been on the right path and we’ve got to continue this journey. As long as God gives me breath, I just enjoy what I’m doing. I don’t even call it work anymore.”
Fields was one of six coaches selected for the MAC Hall of Fame’s Class of 2024. The others include Port Gibson basketball coach Harold Liggans; Starkville Academy softball coach Lee Berryhill; Pelahatchie softball coach Mike Chambless; Gene Delcomyn; and Tishomingo County baseball coach Jerry Long.
The inductees will be honored at a banquet on June 21, 2024 at the Sheraton Refuge Hotel in Flowood.
Fields, who was also inducted to the Hinds Community College Athletic Hall of Fame in 2007, said being inducted to the MAC Hall of Fame was a show of respect from his peers.
“What it means is they respected me enough to think that much of me to put me in that category, and I really appreciate it,” Fields said. “You can’t do this on your own. It takes other people, and people who notice you that you don’t even know that’s watching.”
Fields’ hall of fame career began at Utica High School in 1988, and has continued through stops at Hinds AHS, St. Aloysius and two different stints at Raymond.
Fields led Hinds AHS to five MHSAA Class 1A and 2A boys’ team track state championships before the school closed in 2014, and then won one MHSAA Class 1A and one MAIS Class 3A title at St. Al in 2015 and 2017. His St. Al runners own nearly every boys’ overall sprint record in the MAIS. His Hinds AHS athletes won more than 100 individual championships.
In 2014, Fields was selected as the National High School Track and Field Coach of the Year by the U.S. Track and Field and Cross Country Coaches Association.
“I just enjoy working with those kids,” Fields said. “The only thing I think about is the kids I coach and how to try and make them better every day. That’s all I deal with. The individual accolades, I don’t even deal with that stuff. You’re only as good as the people around you anyway.”
While his greatest success has been in track and field, Fields has coached a lot of sports beyond that.
He’s also won 111 games as a football head coach, and directed powerlifting and cross country teams at his various stops. He said he likes to incorporate all of the sports together as a sort of cross training program.
“When I was growing up, football training was harder than track training. You had to run the mile every year for conditioning. If you didn’t make your time you had to run stadium stairs. We ran more in football than we did in track,” Fields said. “I just like to train, because I feel the more you train the more you become versatile and the better you are in any sport. In my world, if you’re a great track athlete you’re going to be a great football player.”
Fields started his coaching and teaching career when he was in his 20s, after a failed attempt to play in the Canadian Football League with the Montreal Alouettes. He retired from the public school system in 2014 and joined St. Al’s staff as an assistant football and head track coach that same year. He later served as St. Al’s football head coach from 2017-19.
After a year off from football, he took on a unique role as Raymond’s head football coach in the fall — he does not teach at the school — and St. Al’s track coach in the spring.
Fields has worked long enough that he’s able to retire if he wants to. But the 59-year-old doesn’t want to. His life’s work is helping to mold young athletes into better people, and they do the same for him. He’s nowhere near ready to leave that behind.
“From the start of my coaching career until now, the goal is still the same — to work with those kids and make them better human beings, and be able to help them make a better life for themselves,” Fields said. “Every day when I go out there to work with those kids, it takes away all the stress.”