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updated: 3/20/2014 8:41 PM

Fields makes sure his focus remains family

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  • Mike Fields announced Monday he is stepping down as St. Charles East football coach after five years.

    Mike Fields announced Monday he is stepping down as St. Charles East football coach after five years.
    Brian Hill | Staff Photographer


From the perspective of a reporter who happily dealt with St. Charles East football coach Mike Fields, the sense was consideration for his kids was a priority.

Sometimes, it seemed, at the expense of his own.

The best time to reach Fields by phone typically was after 8 p.m., which afforded the coach a slice of time with his young son Max, now 6, before bedtime.

A call often seemed to interrupt Fields reading to or playing with his son. Mary Fields would lead Max away for the night, followed by the heartbreaking sound, across the phone line, of the tyke pleading with dad for more time together.

They will have that time since on Monday Fields resigned his position as Saints head coach after five years, and 18 overall as a coach including a decade at Geneva in Rob Wicinski's program.

Fields told the St. Charles East football team Tuesday, when athletic director Mike Sommerfeld issued a news release.

"It's OK, it's just time," said Fields, who will continue teaching health at the school.

"As I told the kids, family always comes first, and I'd be a hypocrite if I didn't realize that, and it's time to focus on that," he said.

Fields said he considered making this change before last season, which ended with a 6-4 mark and a Class 8A playoff berth, the Saints' third in his five seasons. Overall Fields' teams went 25-23.

"My wife, she was 100 percent behind whatever I decided," Fields said. "I just knew it was the best timing and the best thing for my family."

In the news release, Sommerfeld said a search for his successor will begin immediately, which it must.

In an email, Geneva coach Rob Wicinski said he was sad to see his former assistant step down.

"Mike has always been about the people in his program," Wicinski wrote. "As a parent, all you can ask is that you get a coach that treats your kid fairly and gives him every opportunity to succeed in a healthy environment.

"I know for Mike, it was never about the X's and O's or the wins, it was about his kids doing things the right way."

Understanding his makeup it probably wouldn't have mattered, but Fields said when he ruined his knee as a collegiate player at Wisconsin-Stout it created a path.

"I think that was great motivation for me to try to do this (coaching) and try to help kids," he said. "It's been a good incentive for me to try to help kids, and hopefully I have."

Probably the Saints' top moment under Fields came in his first season. It was a 21-14 overtime victory against Waubonsie Valley to earn an unbeaten Upstate Eight Conference title in 2009, the last year of a unified UEC.

The conditions -- rain turning grass to mud -- were perfect for linebacker-slash-quarterback Nolan Possley, who ran for a score and threw 1 pass, the game-winner to tight end Jess Striedl. Bryce Barry and Striedl then made the stop on Waubonsie's fourth-down run to give the Saints the win.

Fields' first mention of Possley did not pertain to that conference title game, but to Possley returning to Saints' summer training camp to help out. It meant a lot to Fields this season to have Shaun Ratay, who starred at Geneva while he was there, as a first-year offensive coordinator.

"People are asking, what do you remember most," Fields said, "and it's not the games, it's the relationships."

He felt great support from administrators such as Sommerfeld and principal Charles Kyle, and athletic secretary Nancy Palmeri.

"She has been my rock for five years, and I've leaned on her for everything," he said.

Now Fields won't need to. Little Max needs his own rock.

"He's just getting started," Fields said. "He's my only one."

Bombs away

Congratulations to St. Charles North's Alec Goetz and Kaneland's Tyler Carlson for reaching Peoria in the IHSA's boys Three-Point Showdown.

Goetz, shooting among the Class 4A group, made 7 of 15 shots in Thursday's preliminary round and did not advance. Carlson, shooting in 3A, made 8 of 15, also not enough to advance. Oh well.

Carlson also can be congratulated for being named a Class 3A honorable-mention selection by The Associated Press. West Aurora's Jontrell Walker and Geneva's Nate Navigato made AP honorable mention in Class 4A, Walker nearly earning Second Team honors.

College of coaches

Last June when second-year Aurora Central Catholic athletic director Sean Bieterman said John Belskis, the retired hall of fame football coach of Downers Grove South, was joining the Chargers program as varsity defensive coordinator, that was a jaw dropper.

Bieterman's coup continues this spring with the ACC debuts of softball coach Tom Babyar and girls soccer coach Kristy Kane.

"When the opportunity exists to hire people of such quality that we did it's only going to benefit the school and benefit the program. I tell you, it makes spring run much smoother," Bieterman said.

Kane is building a resume, with a good start. Head soccer coach at Rosary the last two seasons, Kane's Beads went 36-10 overall with consecutive regional titles. Rosary lost to Benet in a sectional final last season.

Babyar is the softball equivalent of Belskis in football, a hall of fame coach who brings plenty of success.

Winner of more than 600 games in 33 seasons all at York prior to his 2011 retirement, Babyar was a 2007 inductee into the Illinois Coaches Association Hall of Fame for softball.

While there is a geographical connection with Kane and Aurora Central, the connection between Babyar and ACC stems from Bieterman being a York graduate and his father, Rick, a well-known, veteran high school official.

"I've known Tom for years, well before I was a student at York," Sean Bieterman said. "He's been a family friend for years through Elmhurst baseball, the Elmhurst softball association. We reached out to him over the summer and were able to work it out by the fall."

Bieterman said he feels like "the rookie" among a spring staff that includes 28-year head girls and boys track coach Troy Kerber. In reality, he is a young veteran entering his 12th year as a head baseball coach, including seven seasons at Driscoll and three at Lincoln-Way Central.

"I like to say that we hired some very good coaches and great people in these positions, and it makes the job easier as an athletic director, and since I'm coaching in the spring it makes that job easier as well. It makes every day fun for me knowing we're working with people who make it fun for the kids," Bieterman said.

"It's the first step to building championship programs, is having good people. I feel really good about the people we have in the spring."

Follow Dave on Twitter @doberhelman1

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