With the Winter Olympics wrapped up, the sport of curling is fading into memory for most Americans. It probably won’t command much of their attention for another four years.
But that’s not the case for Will Pryor.
Pryor is a 17-year-old regular at the Ardsley Curling Club, located a short train ride north of the city in the town of Dobbs Ferry, N.Y. The high school senior has curled throughout his teenage years and spent time recently trying to get others into the game.
Shortly after the Sochi games ended, Pryor served as an instructor at an Ardsley Curling Club open house. It was one of several which aimed to capitalize on the sport’s quadrennial surge in popularity and attract some new members to the club.
During 30-minute sessions, Pryor taught small groups of new players how to deliver 42-pound curling stones and how to properly sweep the ice, allowing the stones to travel just a bit further. Groups only went partway down the ice, but they got the basics. In a regulation curling match, teams of four aim to get their stones closest to the center of a target known as the house. Often, that involves knocking the other team’s stones out of the way.
Pryor has been curling for four years, ever since he saw the sport televised during the 2012 Vancouver Olympic Games. He found the Ardsley club on Google and began playing four or five times a week. These days, he and his mother make the two-hour round-trip commute from their hometown of Cornwall-on-Hudson to Ardsley twice a week.
Pryor recently competed at the sport’s U.S. junior championship in Seattle, and has traveled to Germany and Iceland to curl. He said that he’s made many friends at the Ardsley club, many of them much older than himself. “ I’m a 17-year-old kid, yet I have friends that are 84 and in their 70s,” Pryor said. “But we chat like normal people and [it] doesn’t really matter.”
Tom Doherty, the president at Ardsley, knows that curling at the club means multiple hour-long commutes for Pryor and his mother.
“You have to be dedicated to do that two or three times a week, considering he probably has other after-school activities,” Doherty said. “It’s just his enjoyment of curling that brings him down here, and he wants to teach it to others even at his very young age.”
Next year, Pryor plans to attend college in Minnesota (thanks in part to a competitive curling club in the Twin Cities). Eventually, he hopes to make the U.S. Olympic team.
He said his friends from school often get annoyed with him because he spends so much time curling, but they support his long-term goal of Olympic gold. In fact, they have a long-term plan of their own, according to Pryor.
“They always say, ‘Well if you don’t make it in the Olympics, you owe us, like, 40 hours of spending time with us,’” he said.