Everyone has heard or used the phrase: "Logistical nightmare."

Those words have added meaning in the high school sports world as many people, despite countless logistical nightmares, worked tirelessly and successfully behind the scenes the past three months to provide a safe, memorable winter experience for student-athletes during COVID-19.

It was a nearly impossible task that these unsung, mostly unseen, sports heroes helped pull off. Those selfless people deserve a salute and shout out.

The fact that hundreds of pandemic-altered high school sporting events and practices, many held indoors, including swimming, basketball, ice hockey, skiing and cheering, took place January through March of 2021 is nothing short of a miracle.

However, that miracle did not come from the heavens, but was provided by dozens of detail-oriented, sports-loving, safety-conscious people behind the scenes, along with the adherence to the school and state safety protocols by the teenage athletes.

First, the youngsters wore masks nearly 100% of the time. They wore them on the court, ice, snow, floor and pool deck. Everywhere but in the water. They sat six feet apart (social distancing was weird since traditionally teammates sit side by side). They did not shake hands or hug. They simply participated in their sport with gratitude in their hearts and smiles on their faces — behind the covering, of course.

Those seamless events, however, could not have happened unless the school athletic administrators met all state-mandated protocols and made sure indoor spaces had no more than 50 people in attendance, which included the athletes, coaches, trainers, clock and bookkeepers, and event officials.

Safety was the number one concern. For example, there were people at each game who constantly disinfected basketballs as officials switched them out continuously.

Venues had to be cleaned often (thank you, custodians), equipment sanitized and teams had to be safely and effectively transported, which sometimes proved difficult with what has been a shortage of bus drivers in some districts.

Of course, with no spectators, including parents, grandparents and siblings of the student-athletes, permitted at events it was especially important to come up with ways to livestream, to give outsiders a peek behind the curtain, and each school successfully tackled that so fans could watch events in real time.

Surely, livestream will be part of the high school athletic landscape post-pandemic.

While there were a handful of COVID-related issues along the way, from athletes being held out of action due to close contact or a couple of schools having to drop out of postseason play, the schools in Knox, Waldo and the northern portion of Lincoln county, pretty much made it through unscathed. Which is remarkable given the circumstances.

While nothing was normal about school sports in the winter of 2020-21, most of the young athletes — sadly, except the wrestlers who never got to hit the mats due to their high-risk distinction — got a chance to create memories and experience the joys of competition.

That was, in large measure, due to the people behind the scenes before each first hoop, dropped puck, splash in the pool, tumble on the floor or journey down the slope.

Those unsung school sports heroes went above and beyond to keep students-athletes in the game and certainly deserve a standing ovation — virtually, of course.