Avery Comartin has made the tough choice of moving to the United States, while fulfilling her school obligations in Windsor, Ont., to pursue her dream of an NCAA soccer scholarship. Photo courtesy of Avery Comartin

Border issue makes for a tough choice

By 
  • August 27, 2021

With the United States extending its non-essential travel restrictions at land border crossings until at least Sept. 21, Windsor, Ont.’s Avery Comartin finds herself in a difficult bind.

Eased constraints would have enabled her to attend her Grade 12 classes at Holy Names Catholic High School in the Canadian border city in person while also allowing her to cross the border to compete in her fifth Elite Clubs National League (ECNL) season with her Vardar Soccer Club teammates in Michigan. But continued border closures have changed Comartin’s plans.

She’s always dreamed of earning an NCAA scholarship and will work towards making her dream a reality by moving to the Great Lake State in September. Thus, she will tackle her school course load remotely.

“I’ll have to do my courses online,” said Comartin, clearly not pleased. “I will also be away from my friends and family (likely) for three to four months if the border doesn’t open up.”

Comartin has chosen this path because she “can’t imagine not playing soccer for the next four years” of her life.

She at least has some experience with this model as high schools across Ontario tackled the 2020-21 school year with a hybrid of virtual and classroom learning. 

Comartin, a perennial ‘A’ student, weathered the unorthodox learning arrangement effectively, but it has many downsides.

“My grades didn’t suffer or change, but it’s hard mentally on students,” she said. “I was more unorganized and it was hard for me to remain focused. More willpower was required. And it’s tough not having those social breaks. With remote learning, you’re online for hours without breaks, and I find you just don’t learn as much as you would be if you were in school.”

The border remaining closed throughout the 2020-21 academic calendar put a straitjacket on Comartin’s chances of dazzling scouts during her junior year of high school. Traditionally, most future student athletes secure scholarship offers during Grade 11.

“Last September, my team was playing full time, and I was stuck in Windsor without even a team to play for. Another obstacle was I couldn’t participate in showcases to impress coaches.”

She and her father, Chad, did find a way to fly from Toronto to Florida so she could suit up for three games with her team in the spring, and she did move to Michigan for the month of June so she could play in the league playoffs. Chad noticed the stress it had on his daughter.

“Recruiting is such a huge thing and we knew the cards were stacked against her because she missed so much time with her teammates,” he said. “And it was just a stressful time for her in general with COVID, and wanting to be recruited. Her place to de-stress has always been the soccer field, but she didn’t have that because there were no options in Windsor.”

For almost a year Chad has been sending letters to Health Minister Patty Hajdu and Bill Blair, Minister of Public Safety, to inform them of his daughter’s pressing situation, to no avail. Windsor-Tecumseh MP Irek Kusmierczyk has promised a meeting with Chad in the near future.

“Hopefully on the Canadian side, we could work out a new testing requirement, a way so she would only have to do a PCR Test, which costs about $200, just once a week instead of 72 hours (before entering Canada),” he said. “Perhaps she could do another type of rapid or antigen test? She is vaccinated, right, so most of the risk is mitigated.”

As it stands, Comartin has to travel to Toronto to pay for a plane ride and wait for someone to pick her up in Detroit, across the river from her home, since she does not qualify as an essential worker.

Comartin believes that the U.S. government needs to widen its parameters as well.

“I know about 10-15 kids just from my own school competing in other sports who are moving their lives to the States just because they aren’t allowed to cross the border. Hopefully my story can raise awareness,” said Comartin.

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