It's easy to get caught up in the excitement of football season, with the Steelers set to receive their Super Bowl rings and begin the quest to defend their world championship, Penn State ranked in the top ten with Joe Pa back running onto the field and prowling the sidelines, and communities all around our area flocking to the high school gridiron for everything involved with Friday night lights.
There are few sports that unite small towns, large cities, states and even the nation the way that football does.
However, it's also important to remember that there are a lot more athletes to support this time of year that those who strap on shoulder pads and helmets.
Several other seasons are underway, and while they may not always receive the newspaper headlines and television highlights, their athletes and coaches are just as dedicated as those who have the band playing for them at halftime.
Soccer fields have been busy for months with boys and girls teams preparing for the high school season; now rivalries are re-kindled.
Cross country athletes spent the summer running, often alone, sometimes with friends to prepare for their fall meets. Now they compete on leaf-covered courses, while fans catch only a glimpse or two of the runners as they traverse the trails toward the finish line.
Girls volleyball teams are already in a tournament mindset with early-season events going on throughout the state, and hopes high for the season-ending tournaments yielding district and state championships.
Tennis courts and golf courses are teaming with teams whose fall schedule is already in full swing.
These are all athletes who have practiced and played their sports for years, many have climbed the ranks through youth leagues and summer camps; others have had private or parental lessons. They stay after school for practice, come home late after weeknight events, and sometimes play extra tournaments on weekend. They juggle games, workouts, conditioning and school work.
On their games days, adrenaline levels rise and butterflies fill their stomachs, as they prepare to compete for themselves, their teams and their schools. They learn the value of competition and camaraderie, fitness and fun.
If you are looking for something to do on a weeknight in the fall, maybe consider stopping by a local soccer field or tennis court, or heading to the high school for an evening volleyball game.
You will be impressed with the electricity in the air, the quality and intensity of the competition and the team spirit on the field. It's expressed in group huddles after soccer goals and hip-bumps after volleyball points, handshakes and cheers after tennis and golf matches and exhausted hugs at the end of a cross country run.
Paint your faces and clear your throats to cheer for all of the fall sports, athletes and coaches; these teams deserve a boost of hometown pride and support.
Kellie Goodman can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Her column appears on Tuesdays.