Fall sports are beginning to head toward a most unusual postseason. Those teams that competed this fall were largely successful in avoiding the scale of problems predicted by some during this pandemic. It was likely a result of good planning and, yes, some luck.

But that’s what success in sports always relies on, isn’t it?

It’s good to see area teams on the fields and on the courts. It’s a little bit of normalcy in a deeply abnormal time. And if that can be done safely, why shouldn’t the opportunity to play continue? It may get tougher to keep that window open this winter unless Wisconsin can get a grip on the record COVID numbers we’re currently seeing.

Sports offers the opportunity to learn lessons that aren’t so readily available in the classroom. They teach participants about themselves, about the need to commit to a common cause. They teach students about being part of a team, something bigger and more important than themselves. Other activities can offer similar benefits.

If we pay attention, adults can learn from them too.

Think for a minute about why people support their local high school and college teams. It’s not, generally speaking, based on whether the team has a winning record. And it shouldn’t be. The record is secondary to the fact that the athletes competing are part of our community.

In many cases, the athletes are on teams representing schools their families have a history with. They’re playing for the same pride parents and grandparents felt in previous generations. They’re playing because they have roots here.

In others, the students are from families new to the area. On the field that makes no difference. They’re representing our community, our schools. They deserve our support.

We’ve seen cases in which communities got down on teams that underperformed expectations. That’s a misguided response. No one knows better when a team is bad than the players and coaches. They don’t have the option of heading home at halftime or skipping the next game on the schedule. They have to stick it out, and that takes a measure of doing.

This isn’t the same as the every kid gets a trophy approach. Acknowledging reality is part of what sports can teach, too. But there’s a difference between that and unwarranted criticism or praise. There is a further difference between those and supporting teams and their athletes because they are part of the community.

Fall sports will yield in the coming weeks to winter athletics. Unlike most fall sports, that means a move indoors, where concerns about COVID transmission are more pronounced. Difficult decisions lie ahead.

We look forward to being able to root for local fall sports for just a while longer. Athletes and coaches have dealt with a situation that is unprecedented within their lifetimes and have done so with grace and dedication that, in many cases, belies the athletes’ years.

With luck, next fall will be different again. Will it be what it was a year ago? Probably not. Things have changed. But it should be closer than this season.

To the athletes and coaches getting ready for the postseasons, good luck. It has been a long, winding path. To those who are wrapping up their seasons, well done.

You’ve made your communities proud.