With a blow of the coach’s whistle, 16-year-old Detroiter Cherelle Vance saunters up to a line marked by red masking tape. Standing with one foot on each side of the line, she takes an arrow from her quiver and draws her bow. With a quick snap, the arrow flies 20 yards, striking her multicolored target.
Thanks to a new archery shop and range in the Motor City, Vance is just one of many Detroiters of all ages learning to shoot and compete in archery tournaments.
Just under a year old, the Pinhead Archery Pro Shop is a vivid yellow building on Detroit’s West Side, where men, women and kids can learn the sport of archery, compete in leagues and even train for the Olympics.
The pro shop was 17 years in the making, says manager and co-owner Eric Tomlinson, a certified instructor through the national organization USA Archery.
“There was no archery range in Detroit,” says Tomlinson. “There are many African-Americans that shoot and had to go to the suburbs, and now we don’t.”
The curious name of the shop is a nod to the nickname of a friend of Tomlinson.
“He’d take a pin, put it in the target, then drive it in with an arrow. And you know how small a pinhead is.”
Tomlinson got his start at the tender age of 9, when his mother bought him a bow and set of arrows instead of a toy gun to play with, which kept him out of trouble. He picked up the sport quickly, and began entering and winning tournaments.
While Pinhead offers classes and tournaments for all ages, the youth program, called Elite Archery, Inc., is gaining particular momentum. Kids aged 5 to 17 can sign up for a 12-week class for $85, which includes the bows and arrows. Students practice at the Pinhead range three times a week; during warmer months, they shoot in Detroit City Airport’s Hangar 2 on the East Side. Students have the option of playing in tournaments to get trophies and the possibility of a full-term scholarship at Michigan State University.
Destinee Coleman, 10, of Detroit, has been shooting for two years. “I wanted to try it out. It’s fun. I like it, then my mother bought me a bow, and I just kept shooting.”
She shot right past No. 1 to Grandmaster, a trophy she won at a tournament for being “above first place for my age group. It’s real big,” she says.
Having the indoor range is a good opportunity for children, says Eugene Navilys of Harper Woods, a member of the Thursday night men’s league.
“Kids in Detroit don’t have the opportunity to be taught,” Navilys says. “It teaches focus, concentration, that practice makes perfect and patience. You put some time into it.” Navilys, assistant scoutmaster of Boy Scouts Troop 1318, brings his troop to Pinhead so they can earn a patch for archery.
Tomlinson recently applied to become a vendor through the Youth Sports and Recreation Commission’s 21st Century Community Learning Centers Program. The free after-school program provides kids in 15 Detroit Public Schools with “variety as opposed to traditional sports or activities,” says Program Associate Patricia Bridges, who’s enthusiastic about Tomlinson’s program.
Some schools already offer archery, such as The Roeper School in Bloomfield Hills. Detroiter Rahsaan Trice, 10, says that’s where he began to participate in archery. He learned of Elite about two months ago at a trip to Detroit City Airport, where Tomlinson was speaking. He’s learned a lot from the sport.
“It takes concentration, patience and focus,” he says.
And ambition. Eleven-year-old Chardonnay Vance, Cherelle’s sister, is already shooting at big dreams.
“I’ll tell you why it’s fun,” she says. “You get trophies, show off at school, and get scholarships. I’m going to the Olympics.”
Pinhead Archery Pro Shop, 19010 Schoolcraft, Detroit, is open 2-9 p.m., Monday-Saturday, and gives one free lesson to all newcomers. Elite Archery’s enrollment is ongoing. For more info call 313-242-0040 or 313-838-5129. Rhona A. Mays is an editorial intern for Metro Times. Send comments to [email protected]