NEW YORK (CBS) – Larry Brown has dedicated his life to archery.
His passion for the bow and arrow began and continued in New York City, reports Vladimir Duthiers.
“My father, one day took myself and my two brothers out to a garbage dump in Queens. Got a cushion, and taught us how to shoot,” said Brown. “That’s how it started, and I’ve been doing it ever since.”
He wasn’t just missing a coach, his bow was carved from a neighborhood tree
“Everybody thought I was crazy,” said Brown. “They said, ‘Bows and arrow? Who shoots bows and arrows?’ Everybody was playing baseball, football, basketball. I’m in the back yard, shooting, and the next thing I knew, I had other kids wanting to learn how to shoot.”
Growing up in a tough Queen’s neighborhood, Brown’s skill launched him into the Ivy League as head coach of the women’s archery team at New York’s Columbia University.
“At Columbia, I had 14 students for four years. Varsity, NCAA Division 1, the whole nine yards,” he said. “But when I went to tournaments and I didn’t see any black and brown children, I said, ‘You know what? I’m in my 50s now. Let me make a little change here.'”
It was a big change. Brown stepped away from Columbia and went back to his roots in the public school system, teaching archery basics to hundreds of New York City children in an unconventional space
“It wasn’t about a job, it was about a mission,” he said. “And that’s what made it much more comfortable for me to do… and I’ve been doing that for now going on 16 years.”
Brooklyn native Dallas Jones is one of Brown’s prized pupils. He started when he was 10 years old. Now he’s 16, nationally ranked and getting ready to compete for a spot on the United States Olympic archery team.
“I can tell it’s gonna be a fun experience,” said Jones. “I’m not going to try to put too much stress on myself. Archery is about having fun. If I don’t have fun, it’s no point in doing it.”
Jones is the first African American in history to win a U.S. national archery tournament and has his eyes fixed on competing in the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo.
He sees himself not only as a pioneer but also as a role model for people in this country.
“I can be a role model to anybody else that didn’t know really too much about the sport,” he said. “I sure hope I can get more people into the sport and more, especially people of color, and not just to section it off.”
“The success that I see with them, I also see in children who don’t get as far as he did, but they came through the program and they learned from it,” said Brown. “One of my students who started the program here in Brooklyn, at 11, she just got her master’s degree. They both rose to the top; different fields, but they came through the same channel.”
Brown’s teachings impact students well beyond just the bow and arrow, imparting wisdom they can carry with them even off the range.
“The greatest reward is them,” said Brown. “I mean, outside of a medal, outside of getting paid, outside of all the external– attributes and what have you, the true growth is the reward of a living person doing what you taught them to do and it changes their lives.”
Dallas is already looking beyond the upcoming Olympics, setting his goals to make the Olympic team three times at least three times.