They're called the Spinners, and they're here to win.
It used to be that when you mentioned the Spinners and Philadelphia, you were referring to the famed R&B group that recorded at Center City’s legendary Sigma Sound studio in the 1970s. The new Spinners still rely on discs, only now they are the flying variety used by the city’s newest sports franchise, the Philadelphia Spinners.
Combining elements of football, basketball, soccer and rugby, ultimate Frisbee originated in the late 1960s at a high school in nearby Maplewood, N.J. Though the sport has gone international with teams in every corner of the globe, the Spinners will be one of the eight teams participating in the inaugural season of the American Ultimate Disc League.
So what exactly is this game? Even if you’ve never thrown a Frisbee in your life, the rules are relatively simple. Each squad is comprised of 25 players, though only 20 suit up for any particular game. Seven players are on the field for each team. To score, a team must catch the disc in the opponent’s end zone. Each score is worth one point and you must advance the disc through the air; you’re not allowed to run with it in your possession. A team loses control of the disc if it hits the ground, is caught out of bounds or is intercepted by the other team. After each score, there is a kick-off. Similar to football, different players specialize in either offense or defense, and the quarterback (known as the “handler”) is the most skilled passer on the team.
The Spinners are led by General Manager and Coach Jeff Snader. Snader, 34, served in the Marines until 2000 and captained the Corp’s rugby team when he was stationed in Hawaii. When he returned home to Broomall, his brother suggested he give ultimate a try. Hesitant at first, Snader fell in love with the game and after playing for eight years, became coach of Philly’s club team. When the Spinners asked him to be the pro squad’s GM and head coach, it was an offer he couldn’t refuse.
And while he loves the game, “winning is fruitless without integrity.” Luckily, the game has a rule on that, too. The “integrity rule” refers to a player’s ability to overrule a call by the referee, providing the result is not in the player’s favor. “If I catch the disc and I realize my foot is out of bounds and the referee rules the catch is good I can over-rule the referee,” Snader explains. “It is one of the foundations of ultimate that you need to have integrity.” He adds that even with four referees working each AUDL game, making the correct call is difficult considering players can hurl a disc 80 yards in a matter of seconds. “I think the integrity aspect is a wonderful part of the sport considering in other sports, kids are often taught whatever you can get away with is OK if it benefits the team. The players on our team want to win as much as players in any other sport but not if it means sacrificing their integrity.”
Snader says there are more than five million ultimate players nationwide and an estimated 200,000 in the surrounding area who participate in organized leagues.
The AUDL is hoping to make fans out of the millions who already enjoy the sport. The team has purposefully kept the ticket prices low (only $14 each), so an entire family can attend without having to take out a second mortgage.
The Spinners’ eight home games will be played at the University of Pennsylvania’s Franklin Field beginning with an April 14 clash against the Buffalo Hunters. If all goes well, the team will compete in the championship game on Aug. 11 in Detroit’s Silverdome.
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Welcome to our annual Spring Guide. This year, we've devoted our pages to all things sports. It is, after all, the season of the fan. It's playtime, folks. Game on!