Once again, many of our athletic teams are having outstanding years. Although it is too early to determine if any of them will make a run to the state tournament, several programs are creating a lot of excitement in the communities throughout our area.

That’s always a positive outcome of a successful team in high school sports as they tend to unite the community and energize the adult population.

However, some teams have yet to win a game — and may not get a win by the time the season ends. The lack of success hasn’t seemed to affect the students much as homecoming celebrations in these communities are as spirited as ever. However, some adults appear disgruntled, passing blame around for the failure of the teams on the fields or courts.

Sports does seem to make the world go around even in education — just look at the dollars plowed into college athletics — so a good, hard look at programs is warranted.

However, what if the problem with a program is just a lack of talent? Theoretically, high schools can’t recruit like colleges can and they can’t go after players on the open market like pro teams can.

There isn’t anything we can do about a lack of talent besides accepting the fact and embracing our children anyway because they have other talents that lie outside the spotlight of high school athletics.

Adults need to separate the value of our children on the playing fields compared to their value as individuals. A losing season, or lack of athletic talent, shouldn’t be a reflection of the worth of a student.

That separation is tricky and it often blurs when students are superior athletes, leading to winning teams that enliven the community. Adults may look the other way at youthful transgressions off the field as long as a player stars on Friday night. Adults may justify this behavior because it ensures a winning team that brings the community together.

The problem is that even though this practice may lead to good things for the community in the short-term, eventually, these star athletes may grow up to be like the equally privileged NFL players we see in the news reports, not on the sports pages, due to criminal activity.

The line shouldn’t blur the other way, either, as lack of talent on the playing field Friday night shouldn’t determine the worth of young people the rest of the week, even if it may mean the community becomes disheartened with its teams.

Adults in the community may not see anything beneficial in a losing season or students that lack athletic talent, but these situations do provide an education, perhaps even develop character.

Tom Healy, a 1961 graduate of Spring Valley High School, was recently named to the Kingsland Wall of Honor, which recognizes graduates who made an impact after their high school years. Healy is a national leader in higher education.

As a child growing up in Spring Valley, he aspired to play baseball and become “a great athlete,” something many kids dream about. However, he soon realized he was “slow afoot” and had “terrible coordination,” he told a reporter for our newspaper.

“If desire alone would have made me successful, I would have been an All-American,” he said. “Reality set in somewhere along the way and I began to lean toward becoming a teacher.”

He didn’t leave sports behind, though, as he became a bat boy for the town baseball and softball teams, and water boy for the school football, basketball and baseball teams.

Although not a star, and not even a participant on the field, he likely learned some lessons from his participation in sports that stayed with him throughout his adult life. Athletics does provide an education, but the lessons are molded by the adults in the community.

We may not realize it, but our youth are sponges, soaking in the values we express.

Judging from his talk at the Wall of Honor ceremony, Healy was a free spirit in high school who didn’t always obey his teachers. Yet, a few years later, after starting college with the same attitude, he told our reporter he had an “ah-ha moment” in which he finally embraced the values of his teachers, transforming himself as “everything they had done to prepare me for life began to shape my learning and work habits.”

He wouldn’t have gone as far as he did without that foundation.

Healy is just one example, though. It is very rare for one of our students to make a name in professional sports. However, many have gone on to big things in the real world after they left high school.

The problem is that adults in the community often don’t see those seeds of greatness germinating outside the sports arena. Some, such as Healy, don’t sprout until they leave.

Many of our students may not bring our communities together in a thrilling ride to the state tournament this fall, but remember that in our midst are many other young people whose accomplishments may not become apparent for many years.

We need to nurture these young people while they are here. If we do, we will have something to celebrate even after the lights go out on the football field Friday night.