Goodman Shaffer: Team efforts bolster fall sports teams

Some general observations while enjoying the back-to-school feeling in the air and all of the first-day photos on Facebook:

As school days return, so begins fall sports campaigns, which means Friday night lights will be back on this week at high school football fields around the region.

This is the most hopeful time of the year when everyone is undefeated. Teams have built bonds through summer two-a-days and now it’s time to put that hard work to the test.

Opening week means spotless uniforms and new names and numbers in the program. It’s fully-stocked concession stands, freshly-painted fields and new routines for marching bands.

The days may be getting shorter, but the sun will still be in the sky for this week’s kick-offs, making for beautiful sunsets over central Pennsylvania gridirons, adding to the bright hopes for area teams.

Of course all fall sports have been busy at camps for weeks, from soccer fields to cross country trails, weight rooms to cheerleading practice. The new school year revives local pride as entire towns come together to enjoy long-time rivalries and sports-themed community spirit.

Underclassmen will look to prove themselves while seniors prepare for the long list of lasts: final road trips to rival fields, closing chances at a championship, fading opportunities to compete together with their teammates.

While the focus will be on the various athletic fields, it’s important to remember the many individuals who make all of these experiences possible.

Most athletes get their first taste of competition in local youth programs bolstered by volunteer coaches and administrators, often moms and dads.

Booster clubs have been working and planning for months to provide supplemental sportswear, team celebrations, concession stand staff, and all of the other odds-and-ends needed beyond the allocated school funds. Parents and friends support their children by watching games from behind the fast food counters or ticket tables, continuing to raise money throughout the season.

Dedicated officials prepare for the new season, reviewing rule books and attending trainings, knowing that they will never please everyone, but still committed to creating valuable experiences for area athletes.

And there are so many more you may never notice, like statisticians, field crews and groundskeepers; team doctors, athletic trainers and ambulance crews; those who design the programs, sell the ads, and type up the rosters; those who drive the buses, clean up the stands, park the cars, and so many more.

Their combined efforts create important learning experiences that will hopefully serve young athletes far beyond their playing days: fun, friendship, and the many values learned through competition.

High school sports are a team effort and a community commitment, which may be why they mean so much to us. Wishing all students a wonderful school year – on and off the athletic fields.

Kellie Goodman Shaffer can be reached at Her column appears on Tuesdays.