Published: November 2, 2011
"It kind of pulls you in," the 48-year-old says. "Once you start you can't stop. It romances you, it kind of takes you back, makes you feel more in tune with yourself and nature. It's peaceful. If I've had a stressful day at work or anywhere all I say is I can't wait until Monday, I can't wait until Wednesday."
But archery still isn't always such an easy sell in the city.
Austin's son Jesse was first drawn to archery after seeing some old Western movies. He's gotten pretty good at it since he began taking lessons about a year ago. But he won't reveal to his friends what he does.
"I never told them," he says. "They're into basketball and football and, like, the major sports. They won't understand."
The kids are playing on their cellphones. Or talking. Or wandering around, distracted. But when Tomlinson blows his whistle, the kids line up like troops.
They're inside a cavernous old classroom in the Woodbridge Community Youth Center. Several bull's-eye targets stand at one end of the room, and lines on the floor show shooters where to stand.
"On the line, let's go!" Tomlinson yells. His students call him "coach" for his demeanor. "Get in your stance." The kids line up, aim their bows, pull their drawstrings back and let loose a volley of arrows that hit their target with an echoing thud. Every shot is aimed at creating a better future.
All these years of these practices and tournaments, all the effort it took to establish his program, finally paid off recently when one of his students earned a archery scholarship to Michigan State University based on the skills Tomlinson spent years teaching him. The coach mentions it frequently, with excited pride.
"In fact I was so proud I gave him my $800 target bow, so it could be apples and apples up there." The kid had a hunting bow, but the other students have target bows. Tomlinson didn't want him to stand out or feel different from the suburban kids there. He'd earned his place in school the same way as them, after all.
It was the first success in the coach's mission, born when he would shoot at places like the Detroit Archery Club in West Bloomfield. That club started in Detroit nearly a century ago, and though it left the city years back it took its name with it, an ironic keepsake serving as a reminder that archery hadn't existed in the city for a long time, at least until a retired Detroit steelworker brought it back.
"I tease them all the time about that," says Tomlinson about the club. "I said, 'Y'all might have the name "Detroit Archery," but I am Detroit archery.'"
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