ALPINE — As an entrepreneur, Mark Comer has assumed many roles, although his current role as film producer is receiving all of his current focus.
Comer, and several other interested parties, are involved with his ambitious project, having worked feverishly in compiling a short film since late Thursday and released it Monday at noon.
Time is very much of the essence.
It’s a film Comer, and everyone else involved, hope brings back something that was suddenly taken away from thousands of Utah high school seniors: the opportunity to compete in spring sports.
“There’s just a lot of movement right now because people involved know time’s running out for these seniors,” Comer said. “It’s about the kids, and what they’re going through. This is it for them. There’s no do-overs.”
On April 14, the Utah High School Activities Association announced the cancellation of all spring sports in conjunction with Utah Gov. Gary Herbert effectively closing schools for the remainder of the 2019-20 academic year due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Although anticipated, the news wasn’t well received by many students, but particularly senior athletes who have relished the opportunity of playing their final season.
Comer’s son, Chase Comer, is one such athlete.
Chase has played a significant role on Lone Peak’s football and baseball teams, leading up to a final season with the hope of going out on top while perhaps attracting some recruiting attention. Not having the opportunity to do so has weighed on him, and by extension to those who care about him.
“It has been brutal,” Mark Comer said. “There will be three to four days in a row where he’s just really in a bad mood and gets almost completely withdrawn. It breaks your heart, as a parent, and I’m just one of many, many other parents seeing their kids have to go through this.”
Comer is quick to add that it’s not necessarily about shielding kids from the disappointment that comes with challenges, but an effort to soften the blow through participation in sports.
So what’s the plan Comer, and many more, have to play spring sports this season? It involves many different factors — from petitions, overtures to key decision-makers, and an effort to convey the message through video.
“The overall message is simply that we shouldn’t throw in the towel yet on spring sports,” Comer said. “We need to keep watching the (COVID-19) numbers. If they continue to go down, then have a plan in place. That’s all we’re asking. At the same time, we know these are tough decisions during truly extraordinary times and that the general health is, and always should be, the chief concern.”
The video involves 18 programs throughout the state and around 60 athletes, stretching from Ridgeline High to St. George, conveying a simple, yet heartfelt message to not give up on the possibility of a spring sports season.
The movement began moments after schools were effectively shuttered for the remainder of the academic year. Comer placed a call to friend Dan Higginson, who also has a senior son playing for Salem Hills, and it just sort of blew up from there.
Calls were fielded from all over the state, with coaches, parents and even administrators sharing the goal to get together to forge some type of high school spring sport season. Of course balancing the desire to play with health concerns is something most involved are mindful of and are more than willing to work with any restrictions imposed.
“Kids will play in hazmat suits, if they have to, and I’m not just saying that,” Comer said. “These kids will do anything to get out there and have the experience they’ve worked so hard for all their lives.”
Comer understands forging anything close to a typical spring sport season has passed, but maintains some sort of meaningful season can be produced.
“There’s several different options,” he said. “It’s not kids in classrooms. It’s outside with a very limited number of athletes on the field, and I know the kids, parents and coaches are more than willing to work with any restrictions that have to be put in place. Let’s just not quit. Let’s do everything we can to give these kids the type of experience they deserve and what a lot of them really need to help cope with this thing.”
Several states are preparing to move to the next phase of gradually reopening their economies, with Herbert hoping to reopen several types of businesses and other activities by early May.
So why shouldn’t high school spring sports be among those activities that are reopened?
“School isn’t shut down. Kids are still spending half the day getting school work done online,” Comer said. “So to make the blanket statement that spring sports are done because school is shut down — I just don’t believe it just absolutely has to be that way, and I’m certainly not alone with that thought. Not even close.”