Yoder playing sport he loves to the 'Ultimate'

Jason Yoder, a Goshen College graduate, is in his third season with the Indianapolis AlleyCats of the professional American Ultimate Disc League.

Posted on May 4, 2014 at 5:14 a.m. | Updated on May 5, 2014 at 3:17 p.m.

Discs flying through the air is a common sight at parks and beaches all over the world.

Adults, children and even dogs fling or chase the plastic for pleasure and exercise.

Loving the throwing and catching so much, Jason Yoder gravitated to the sport of Ultimate (sometimes called Ultimate Frisbee and governed in the U.S. by USA Ultimate) as a Pennsylvania schoolboy and later Goshen College student, He also played in the Michiana Ultimate Summer League in South Bend.

This spring marks the third year Yoder is getting paid to play his favorite sport. He is a defensive line handler on the Indianapolis AlleyCats of the American Ultimate Disc League, a pro Ultimate circuit started in 2012.

After coaching the Indiana University team in Bloomington for a couple seasons, Yoder went out for and made the AlleyCats roster.

"It really is a dream come true," says Yoder. "Playing before a crowd on a regular basis with kids watching and getting really excited about Ultimate is really awesome."

Yoder, who earned a double major at Goshen (computer science in 2008 and mathematics in 2009), says the AlleyCats draw 400 to 500 per home game to Kuntz Stadium on West 16th Street in Indianapolis.

"We're trying to get bigger all the time," says Yoder, who can be seen in action on a YouTube video beginning at the 25:22 mark. "Hopefully, it will continue to grow."

In his fifth year of graduate school studies at IU working toward a dual Ph.D. in computer and cognitive science, Yoder makes a little money, if not a living, by playing and promoting Ultimate.

"We are not at liberty to discuss contracts," says Yoder. "Let's just say we are compensated for our time and energy. There are not more than a couple (pro Ultimate) players paid enough to quit their day job."

Ultimate at the pro level is played on a field 80 yards by 53 1/3 yards with end zones 20 yards deep. The objective is to score points by passing and catching the disc in the end zone.

AUDL games are played in four 12-minute quarters. There tends to be a long Hail Mary pass at the end of each quarter before things are re-set.

Each AUDL game, a team may dress a maximum of 20 players.

Players on any level of Ultimate may not run with the disc. Once they gain possession, they must stop and can move one pivot foot while attempting to pass the disc to a teammate.

Yoder says most players on the field are either handlers (similar to football quarterbacks) or cutters (similar to football wide receivers).

"When I first started playing, I was a cutter," says Yoder. "Then my throws got better and better.

"I enjoy playing defense as well as playing offense."

Yoder uses his athleticism to force opponents into making a mistake.

Many of the decisive points in a game are scored off a turnover with a fastbreak or transition offense.

Yoder says Ultimate is intensely cardiovascular with a great deal of sprinting. Since substitutions are only allowed during timeouts (two per half) or after scores, the pace of play is often taxing.

"You can be out there a long time and get tired," says Yoder.

5 things to know about Ultimate

1. Ultimate (sometimes called Ultimate Frisbee) is a non-contact sport played with a flying disc.

With seven players on a side, the object of the game is to score points by passing the disc to a player in the opposing end zone, similar to an end zone in football or rugby.

Players may not run with the disc and may only move one foot (pivot) while holding the disc.

The disc is put into play by one team throwing off to the other team, similar to a kick-off in football.

This throw-off is called the pull.

The club game is typically played until an end condition is reached, typically a time limit or when one team reaches a certain number of points.

A professional regulation game features teams of seven players each, with substitutions allowed between points and during timeouts.

2. An Ultimate field is a rectangle with end zones at each end. USA Ultimate (the sport's governing body in the U.S.) defines a regulation field as 70 yards by 40 yards with end zones 25 yards deep.

The two U.S. professional leagues (American Ultimate Disc League, which includes the Indianapolis AlleyCats, and Major League Ultimate) play on fields lined for football or soccer which are 80 yards by 53 1/3 yards with end zones 20 yards deep.

Teams will employ offensive strategies such as vertical and horizontal stacks, spreads and tri-forces. Defenses may play one-on-one or zone.

3. While there may be referees, most Ultimate games use self-officiating. Players are responsible for their own foul and line calls and they resolve their own disputes.

The "Spirit of the Game" is a key part of Ultimate. The sport stresses sportsmanship and fair play. Competitive play is encouraged, but never at the expense of respect between players, adherence to the rules and the basic joy of play.

Players are expected to know the rules, avoid fouls and body contact, be fair-minded and respectful while having a positive attitude and showing self-control.

4. Indiana Ultimate Association runs many events throughout the year. Most Indiana colleges play Ultimate at some level. The college state championship is contested each fall in Muncie, with teams contending for a traveling trophy created by IUA coordinator Al Geisler.

Penn High School is among the many Indiana schools to field a club team. Penn is coached by John Werbianskyj, with Matt Butler serving as team captain.

The Goshen Ultimate Summer League begins May 20 and meets from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. Tuesdays at Ox Bow County Park in Dunlap.

5. While people have been playing flying discs since the early 20th century, Ultimate traces its history to 1968, when student Joel Silver introduced the game at Columbia High School in Maplewood, N.J.

The next year, the first game was played between two groups of students.

The first college game — Rutgers vs. Princeton — was contested in 1972.

The first organized tournament was the National Collegiate Championships in 1975.

Recommended for You

Super Bowl Football-3

Posted at 7:29 a.m.

Posted on Feb. 8, 2016 at 12:12 a.m.

Posted on Feb. 8, 2016 at 12:00 a.m.
Back to top ^