It sure was a good feeling to walk on the sidelines of the Northland Pines soccer and football fields the last couple of weeks to take photos of high school teams back in action.

The last time I had been around high school sports was the WIAA?State Boys Hockey Tournament back in early March, when the Northland Pines Eagles were playing for a State title. That was the last WIAA tournament that was completed in the winter and spring because the coronavirus made its way to Wisconsin.

The COVID-19 pandemic has caused everyone to hit the pause button on life. During the stoppage and forced time away from routines, many people have come to appreciate the important things in life — family, friends and even sports.

Millions of students, coaches, parents and fans quickly began to realize the privilege of involvement in these education-based programs in schools. Now, slowly but surely, high school sports are on their way back into schools in Wisconsin and across the country. 

“While things are different — with social distancing, masks, hygiene protocols, and virtual arts performances in place — there is a resounding feeling of thankfulness that some degree of normalcy is returning,” said Karissa Niehoff, executive director of the National Federation of State High School Associations.

As a result, this year’s celebration of National High School Activities Month will be like none other in the 40-year history of the event. Since 1980, the National Federation of State High School Associations and its member state associations have promoted the values of high school activity programs during the month of October, but this year will be extra special. 

Kicking off the month-long focus Oct. 4-10 is National Sportsmanship, Fan Appreciation and Public-Address Announcers Week. 

“Hopefully, one of the silver linings of the pandemic is that parents and other fans are more grateful for any opportunity to attend contests this year and positively support student participants. At this time last year, there were numerous incidents of inappropriate adult behavior at high school events — mostly directed at officials,” said Niehoff.

This year, in addition to being respectful of officials, being a good fan involves supporting participants by social distancing and wearing a mask. Attending a high school contest is even more of a privilege, and players, coaches and officials need positive and encouraging support.

Whether as a participant, parent, coach, official, teacher, administrator, community supporter or general fan, millions are invested in the greatest education-based programs in the country — high school sports. Let’s be safe around the fields and gyms.