By USA Archery
This is the story of a father and son from a black neighborhood in Joliet, Ill., who stumbled upon the sport of archery in the mid-90s, opening eyes and opening doors.
This was the era of Michael Jordan and the all-conquering Chicago Bulls. But while MJ was blazing a trail in the NBA, 40 miles away nine-year-old Corey McCormick was taking his first steps into a sport he knew little about.
“I had a toy bow that I messed with all the time in my garage,” recalled McCormick, who now works as a technician for Porsche in Oregon. “My dad (Ron) knew of an archery shop that was close to our house, so we went over there to get something that was a little bit more advanced than what I was using, which was basically a stick with some string!
“The guy working at the shop was telling us about Olympic archery, and he had some posters up on the wall, and I thought it was really cool.
“He told us about the JOAD program, and also about a club that was about an hour away from us (Auroraland Archers). A little while later we went along and next thing you know we’re elbows deep in it.”
By the time he was 12 years of age, McCormick was ranked number one in the country in the recurve cadet division, having won two titles at the 1998 NAA and JOAD National Indoor competition.
Ron McCormick was also heavily involved in the sport, as a competitor, as a Level-4 national coach, and as a judge. Not only was he USA Archery’s 2003 Developmental Coach of the Year but in 2001 he was crowned the Masters Division National Recurve Champion. He coached national and international champions.
“It was cool to have that competition between us (father and son),” said Corey McCormick. “It started off when I was younger that he would always beat me, at practice and tournaments, but that changed pretty quickly. I took to it pretty fast.”
Between the two of them, they went to great lengths to learn about the sport, at a time when knowledge was hard to come by, and then went out of their way to help others develop and improve.
The young McCormick was strong for his age, which helped with the poundage. In his early teens he was shooting 40-pound bows, handing him a significant advantage in the more troubling weather conditions. During practice, he would shoot adult distances.
Corey made the USA team for the 2004 Junior Outdoor Target Archery Worlds Championships in Lilleshall, England. His teammates included Braden Gellenthien and Brady Ellison. Gellenthien won the junior division, with Ellison finishing eighth in the compound cadet division.
“By the time I got out of archery, I think he (Brady) had just started shooting recurve,” McCormick added. “He was coming up in the compound side around the same time as I was active in the adult divisions.”
It is now more than 25 years since Corey McCormick was crowned national champion, that young man from the black neighborhood whose friends growing up were intrigued with his choice of sport and impressed whenever the local media would report on his latest success.
“At the time, when you’re in it, I wasn’t really thinking of the role I was playing as a young black archer,” he began. “When I got a little bit older I started realizing that this is kind of a big deal, especially in my neighborhood and in my school.
“It kind of put Olympic sports on the map for kids that were in my neighborhood. They would come by and they would see me practicing in the driveway. They would always want to come by and watch.”
Today, Ron has retired and son Corey set his bow aside when, as he put it, life kicked in and other interests came along, including a love for cars. His only regret is that – as someone who was relentless in the pursuit of perfection - he wishes he could have taken a break sooner, and given himself the opportunity to recharge and return, which was originally the plan … though never say never.
Now in his late 30s, Corey has just become a father for the first time, to a baby daughter. He still keeps a close eye on the sport and on one archer in particular.
“It’s really interesting, especially since (double Olympic champion) Justin Huish started shooting again,” he said. “I talked to him four or five months ago and he got the itch back into me. I’ve been wanting to get back into it.”
McCormick then concluded with a laugh, “But I’d want to be competitive.”