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An independent, coed K-12 day school in Atlanta

Preparing for the Comeback

Preparing for the Comeback
Danielle Terzer, Digital Communications Manager

There were two weeks left in the lacrosse season and the Lovett Lions had two highly anticipated rivalry games remaining on their schedule. They were the type of games you circle on your calendar at the start of the year: Westminster and Pace. But Lovett goalie, Landon Denker ’24, a sophomore at the time, wouldn’t be playing.

“I definitely felt kind of depressed having to sit on the sideline knowing that my season was over,” Landon recalls. “It was not the way I imagined it at all.”

He had injured a finger in practice and was sidelined for the remainder of the season.

“I felt that there wasn’t really anywhere I could turn to for my mental health,” says Landon, a multi-sport athlete. “I went to the trainers every day for rehab, but for the mental aspect of it, there wasn’t really any help there.”

An opportunity to make a difference shone through the darkness.

Landon learned, through his own research, that his situation was tragically common. He discovered that two million student-athletes get injured every year and a quarter of those are serious enough to have to see a doctor. That’s when the idea for Five Star Comeback emerged.

“For a lot of people, sports are everything,” Landon says. “I started this because I know how you can become anxious and depressed when you care so much about sports and then it’s taken away from you with an injury.”

The Five Star Comeback website, an online resource for athletes struggling with an injury, launched in August 2022.

“We came up with the name because every athlete strives to be five stars— that’s the highest ranking in college recruiting,” he explains. “We want people to feel the same way about coming back from an injury.”

The website greets its visitors with an inspirational quote: “A setback does not define you. Where you are today is not where you’ll be tomorrow.” Further down, there’s a library of sports stories about perseverance and resilience. Landon finds and reposts new content weekly. He also provides resources to help facilitate tough, mental health conversations. There are options to search for professional consultants and treatments, an athlete exchange program (which he created to connect students who share similar experiences regarding injuries), and even a link to the 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline.

"After seeing their mental health struggles firsthand, I wanted to create a site that high school athletes everywhere could use to find immediate resources to get help, find people that understand what they are going through, and get inspired through stories of comebacks."

To spread the word about his site, Landon sent emails to news outlets across Atlanta and shared his website through word of mouth. His persistence and determination are paying off: he’s been featured in various publications including the Northside Neighbor and the Atlanta Jewish Times.

“My goal is to have as many people see the website as possible,” says Landon, who credits his dad, Steve, for teaching him to have a positive outlook. “The more people that see it, the more I’m helping out.”

“While he may not be outspoken, Landon leads by example,” says Lovett football coach Cordell Taylor. “As a leader, he has a plan and a mission and is determined to achieve it.”

Landon has exciting plans for the website as he continues his mission to lead the mental health conversation in athletics. After he leaves the Riverbank, he’s hoping to grow the site in college and even make a career out of it.

“He’s a leader and he’s a teammate,” says Landon’s lacrosse coach and Upper School teacher Bryan Overly. “He’s found something he’s interested in, and as a teacher and parent, that’s all that you want for a kid.”

Even as a full-time student-athlete, he’s leading the charge to bring awareness to the mental health of students in high school sports, and he’s making a significant impact.

“I had someone reach out to me on Twitter about how much it meant to him that we reshared his comeback story,” Landon says. “A grandmother shared with me how her grandson really needed the site because they’ve been having a really tough time since he got injured. It means a lot to hear that my website is helping people. I’ve learned that a small gesture can go a long way.”