Without the assistance of coaches and mentors, as well as the support of family members and friends, it would be extremely difficult to be among the top archery competitors in the world. This definitely holds true for Brady Ellison.
That's why this past week has been one of the most difficult of Ellison's life. His volunteer coach, Bob Towne, recently was diagnosed with terminal stomach cancer.
Towne's diagnosis has been tough on Ellison. They've known each other since 2004, and Towne was one of the coaches on Ellison's first world junior team.
"Some of us went over to see him the other night to say we loved him and to say our goodbyes," Ellison said. "I've kind of been in shock. He's meant so much to me. He has done so much to help me through the years. It's so tough to swallow because of the impact he has had on me and my archery career."
Ellison started shooting at a very young age, mainly because his father hunted, and he wanted to go with him. Ellison is even shown in pictures where he's holding a bow and arrow while in diapers.
The 20-year-old Ellison couldn't exactly recall the first time he began to enjoy the sport of archery, but he knows this much: His passion for the sport has never wavered. In fact, it has increased every year.
"I just love shooting my bow," he said. "Shooting makes me happy. I couldn't put a bow down now. I'd miss it too much. I love it. I've been fortunate enough to be good enough to compete at a high level. I've had the same joy since I first got started."
Ellison got started partly because of some hip problems, which made it difficult for him to run fast. He also had played soccer and other sports, but it got to a point where he simply wasn't as quick as everyone else because of the hip issues.
"Don't get me wrong," Ellison said, who currently resides in Chula Vista, Calif. "I played a lot of soccer and even played on a couple of all-star teams. I couldn't play at the fast pace. In archery, it's really more mental than physical. On top of that, I loved it right away so it was a perfect fit for me."
Ellison is a two-time Junior World Champion-indoor and outdoor-in compound and was the No. 1 ranked U.S. archer after the 2008 U.S. Olympic Team Trials. He found success shooting a recurve bow a few years ago and most recently came in first place in the men's senior recurve event at the 2009 World Indoor Team Trials competition Jan. 3-4. He will compete in the World Indoor Championship in March in Rzeszow, Poland.
Although Ellison has participated in competitions all over the world and captured numerous first-place finishes, competing in the 2008 Olympic Games was the highlight. Now, making the team again for the 2012 Games would be doubly special.
"I always knew that I'd be ready for the 2012 Olympics," Ellison said. "Getting there in 2008 was a nice little bonus."
With the help of such experienced coaches-including his current coach, Kisik Lee-Ellison's future looks ultra-bright.
"I think I've improved and have gotten better every year," Ellison said. "I think I'm a whole lot mentally stronger....I'm excited about what the future holds for me...."
Story courtesy Red Line Editorial, Inc. Andy Jasner is a freelance contributor for teamusa.org. This story was not subject to the approval of the United States Olympic Committee or any National Governing Bodies.