Dallas Jones, a 16-year-old archer from Brooklyn, New York, is blazing trails in the sport. In 2017 he became the first African-American to win a national archery championship. He has continued to clench trophies, and recently won gold at the 2019 Lancaster Archery Classic.
Larry Brown, former head coach of the Columbia University women’s archery team, began a free program to provide youths a constructive after-school program. He hoped his program would encourage more minority youths to try archery. Jones’ mother, Quianna, learned of Coach Brown’s program and encouraged Dallas to participate.
“My mom’s best friend met my coach at the post office,” Jones said. “All my friends wanted to do something during the weekend; Saturdays and Sundays you had nothing to do but play video games. My mom said ‘everyone should start shooting archery.’ There was originally about six of us, but now it’s down to my best friend Ryan and I.”
At age 10, Jones began taking lessons through Brown’s program. He started with a wooden recurve and found his calling. Jones praised Brown’s coaching style in a CBS2 article. “Transferring passion to somebody else is very difficult,” Jones said. “He does it very well. He did it with me. … Now I’m hopefully transferring it to everybody else.”
The most important thing he’s learned from Coach Brown is patience. “He’s a very step-by-step man,” Jones said. “I was very anxious and wanted to shoot 70 meters and he told me to take my time on blank bale. The more I brought up 70 meters, the longer he made me shoot on blank bale. That’s the most important thing, in my opinion. It takes patience for everything.”
His mother continues to cheer him on proudly at tournaments. “Big shout-out to my mom,” Jones said. “She drives me everywhere. I sleep on every ride. She still drives me, even though I’m old enough to drive now.” His post-win interview at the Lancaster Classic mentions how beloved his mother and family are in the community.
Jones hopes he can be someone who young people admire. He also thinks archery can help youths navigate life on and off the range. “With this sport you can’t be immature,” he said in the CBS2 article. “If I can apply the same focus from archery, there’s no reason why I can’t apply it in school.” He draws his own inspiration from Seth McWherter and his friend, Jack Williams.
“The greatest thing I’ve learned is to be patient,” Jones said. “It took me six years to be where I’m at and with some people it takes longer, which is okay. It takes time to do anything that you really want to get good at. I think they’ve said 10,000 shots a day will make you a pro. I don’t know how many arrows I’ve shot, but I don’t think it’s nearly close to 10,000 arrows. Be patient. What you’re looking for will soon come.”
If you ask him what the most rewarding part of archery is, he’ll first tell you that he enjoys a steak dinner whenever he makes top three at a tournament. “Morally, it’s just coming back home knowing I did my best at what I love to do,” Jones said. “I sit in my room for a while and think ‘wow, I did pretty well.’ If my performance wasn’t there, but my scores were, I think that’s something I can work on and get both of those to meet. It’s thinking back to what I did and reviewing myself.” He takes time after each tournament to reflect on his performance. The independent nature of archery is also what drew him to this discipline instead of team sports.
Jones acknowledges that archery has impacted his life in a positive way. “I don’t think I would be the same person that I am today if I didn’t start archery. Living in Brooklyn, New York, you have a lot of influences because, you know, it’s New York; there’s so much going on. I love the fact that I choose archery. I love the person I’ve become.”
That dedication should serve Jones well in school and in archery. His dedication earned him a spot on the USA Archery Recurve Junior Dream Team. The program gives archers extra coaching, and a pathway to competing for a shot at the Olympics. Jones notes that the program helped him prepare for Olympic trials because he was shooting against competitors that were as skilled as him or at an even higher level. “I absolutely loved the Dream Team,” Jones said. “It was more of a family than just a team. We still meet, like, twice a year. It was the best two weeks of my life. I hope the Dream Team finds its way back.”
Jones has his sights set on the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. The first of four qualifying tournaments will be held Aug. 15-16 in Dublin, Ohio. The Olympics team is determined by cumulative points from all four qualifying tournaments. Therefore, one subpar tournament won’t necessarily eliminate a competitor. Archers can bounce back to earn a shot at the team.
As a trailblazing young icon, Jones bears watching. Keep up with his journey by following him on Instagram.