This is a great time of the year; days are getting longer, spring is on the horizon, and just as the late-winter sun is beginning to warm up the sleeping ground, action is heating up on the high school basketball courts and wrestling mats.
With league championship games and district playoff brackets on tap, playoffs on the high school hardwood are getting exciting, with crowds growing along with the significance of each tip-off.
Student fans pull out their school colors to don wacky bleacher "uniforms" consisting of gym shorts and odd socks, face paint and Halloween masks. There is a solidarity among them, with their group cheers, acapella songs and floor-storming enthusiasm, and hopefully their energy is spent on sportsmanlike endeavors.
But at the heart of the electric atmosphere is a game. On one hand, it's just a game, but on the other hand, it's a moment in time which is of the utmost importance to the students, coaches and parents who take each contest personally.
For seniors in these win-or-go-home situations, a loss means the end of an era, the turning of a page on an important chapter of their teenage lives. For athletes who have played and practiced together night in and night out, each game is one more chance to work together toward a common goal.
High school athletes today dedicate much more than after-school hours and gym classes to their pursuits. Summer leagues, camps and off-season coaching sessions are just some of the elements that allow high school teams to be successful.
While some stars perform with the hopes of playing at the next level, the majority of scholastic athletes will see their careers end with graduation. The bonds formed through sports over the years for athletes, as well as coaches and parents is much greater than any one game, but one game will end those relationships as they know them, and will end the dream of a championship as well.
While basketball teams play for the chance to stay together for another night or another week, wrestling teams face the opposite post-season situation.
After a season of dual-meet contests, watching the scoreboard and mentally adding what each pin or decision could mean to the team total, wrestlers must focus more and more on their own individual goals. Team titles can be won with outstanding performances by a few athletes in districts, regionals or even states.
Still, there is a camaraderie among wrestlers that is hard to describe. Perhaps it comes from the hours of weight training and workouts in the stifling heat, where pain and sweat are worn as badges of honor.
Like gladiators, grapplers go into each battle with their sights set on gold, knowing that at the end of the season only the best will reach the top of the medal stand.
It's easy from the outside to say it's just a game or just a match, but when you're a high school athlete living in the postseason, each moment means everything.
Kellie Goodman Shaffer can be reached at Kellie@BedfordCountyChamber.org. Her column appears on Tuesdays.