Favorite athlete: Grayson Allen
Favorite team: Duke Blue Devils Basketball
Most embarrassing/funniest thing that has happened while competing in sports: Sophomore year Coach mopped the floor before practice, and I pulled up for a shot after he said not to and my feet flew out from underneath me and I banged my head against the floor.
Music on iPod: Pop
Future plans: Attend college and major in Engineering
Words to live by: “Hard work beats talent when talent doesn’t work hard.”
One goal before turning 30: Make a difference in my community.
One thing people don’t know about me: I wear earbuds in the hallways at school, but don’t listen to anything.
By GORDON GLANTZ
When Kyle Yoder – all 6 feet 2 inches of him – walks through the Pennridge hallways, he is hard to miss. He is also hard to reach, as he will often be seen with earbuds in his ears.
While he is fond of the pop music of the time, it is not uncommon for no music to be playing. The earbuds are a bit of defense mechanism for the basketball power forward and baseball third baseman, who elects – on occasion – to wear them to avoid unnecessary small talk.
If that sounds like he is aloof, or that he is trying to live in his own world, that’s just not how it is for the Univest Male Featured Athlete of the Week.
While playing two sports, and despite earbuds, Yoder is active in the school community. He is a member of the National Honor Society, which entails community service, and he and two friends from the baseball team – Kolby Rush and Andrew Fantaskey – won a Twitter vote, following a nomination, to lead the P-Block student section this past season at football games.
But it goes beyond that for Yoder, who is active in his church youth group and willingly takes on the oft-difficult challenge of working with children with disabilities and spends free time in the school’s Life Skills Center with challenged students.
“I think he has a real appreciation for what he does have, as compared to what some others don’t,” said Pennridge basketball coach Dean Behrens. “He sees the big picture, and he has been a pleasure to coach.
“He’s so intense. I wish every kid was like him.”
Yoder has seen more of the world – the real world – than the vast majority of his classmates. That may be why the trivialities of high school drama might not be on his minute-to-minute radar.
Just this past summer, while American Legion baseball morphed into summer basketball, he joined his church group on a weeklong mission trip to Haiti.
“It was an amazing experience,” said the aspiring engineer with a 4.3 weighted grade-point average. “It was a totally different way of life.
“It just made me feel so grateful for what I have. We have so much, and they have nothing. They are impoverished, and yet they are still always smiling and so hardworking.”
While the adult team went elsewhere, Yoder and the youth team spent time at an orphanage.
“We were with the kids for six hours a day,” he said. “We became invested in their lives. We were there to show that we cared.”
A difficult part of the mission was not being in Haiti and witnessing the lifestyle, but leaving.
“It was extra hard to come back,” said Yoder. “We landed a Kennedy airport, and we came back through New York City. You look and see how nice of a city it is and think about how they live, as compared to Haiti. It was a tough transition.”
As for sports, they are as engrained on the four children of Dave and Kristen Yoder as academics and doing the right thing.
“Getting me to all my games -- going back to travel basketball and middle school and Little League -- as well as my siblings,” said Yoder, the oldest of two boys and a girl. “It’s a handful, getting us from practice to practice and arranging for rides. It’s been tough on them.
“We are a sports-driven family, all the way, and they have always been very supportive.”
But priorities are priorities, and academics – and the required time-management skills – were always stressed.
“Time management was crucial growing up for me,” he said. “School and sports are balanced.
But Yoder didn’t need his mother prodding him.
“I was always hard on myself with grades,” he said. “I never want to get lower than an A. I was always like that, even in middle school.”
This could explain why Yoder is likely to forego sports at the college level.
“I’m going to focus on academics,” said Yoder, who still deciding between Pitt, Penn State, Lehigh, Lafayette, Virginia Tech or Messiah College.
The best opportunity to remain a student-athlete would appear to be at Messiah College, a private Christian liberal arts school with a student population around 3,300 in Mechanicsburg, Pa.
“If I’m given that opportunity, I’d consider it,” he said, before adding that many factors are involved in his decision and that becoming an engineer is first and foremost.
“I’ll be deciding the next four years with one decision,” he explained, “but it’s going to be an exciting transition.”
One Last Ride
Assuming Yoder decides against being a varsity athlete in college, he is well aware of what lays ahead in the winter and spring seasons – his last at Pennridge.
He doesn’t play favorites between his two longtime athletic passions. Whatever is on the docket, basketball or baseball, he becomes fully immersed.
“Whatever season it is, that’s my No. 1,” he said. “Right now, it’s 100 percent basketball. Once it finishes up, it will be 100 percent baseball.”
The “right now” – his third year on the hardwood for Behrens – will bring changes but the same approach.
Yoder found himself on varsity as sophomore, mainly as a contributor off the bench for a squad that won the conference championship, but he made an impact – including a diving play to keep a loose ball alive that led to an upset win over Reading in the first-round of the state playoffs.
“I thought Kyle was a vital part of our team that year,” said Behrens. “Physicality was his big factor. He did the dirty work, the rebounding. We need rebounding. We had scorers. Kyle fit the bill. Plus, he’s such a smart kid. He was a big part of that team.”
Said Yoder: “I was definitely surprised, especially with the kind of talent we had. But I got an opportunity and I made the most of it. I just played hard, and went out there and did what I had to do. My role wasn’t to score, but to play good defense and set screens to get my teammates open shots. I started a couple games, but I mostly came off the bench.
“My role was not much different last year. I started off starting, but then I got sick and it took a while to get back into shape, so I came off the bench again.”
This year, it is a different look. Behrens would like Yoder to double his points-rebound output to the low double-double range, but he knows he can count on him to continue doing the little things while being a co-captain with Ryan Cuthbert.
“We’re going to depend on him a lot,” said Behrens. “I think he can easily score 8-10 points per game and get 8-10 rebounds per game, but he brings a lot of intangibles that don’t show up on the stat sheet.”
An added piece of incentive this season for Yoder is that his younger brother, Sean, will be a sophomore starter at point guard.
“I’m real excited,” said Yoder. “I never got the opportunity to play with Sean before, so I’m excited for the chance. We’re real close and we work out together all the time.”
Added Behrens: “I know they’re real close, and they are going to be on the floor a lot together. It’s going to be really neat.”
As for statistics, the only number he really cares about is in the won-loss column. Nonetheless, he knows he will be counted on for more points.
“I scored when I needed to score,” he said, more referring to the last two seasons that saw the Rams capture the SOL Continental Conference title. “I know I need to be more aggressive on the offensive end and also be a leader to the younger guys because we only have three guys with varsity experience.
“I think I’ve always had good leadership qualities – from Little League to travel basketball, I’ve been a leader on the court. I’m anxious to put it into action.”
There is no doubt in Behrens’ mind that the leadership will be provided.
“He understands the big picture,” said Behrens. “He knows it is about the team, not him.”
A year ago, on the baseball diamond, Yoder literally found himself at the epicenter of a Rams’ squad that won the district crown.
“Kyle was a fixture for our District 1 championship baseball team last year,” said coach Tom Nuneviller. “He batted in the three or four spot all year. He played a fantastic third base for us. Kyle demonstrates leadership qualities which was very helpful last season and will be needed for the upcoming 2017 baseball season.”
Describing himself as “more of a contact hitter,” Yoder wasn’t really sure why he found himself in the clean-up spot on Nuneviller’s line-up card.
But he just went and did what he was asked to do, with the bat and with the glove.
“I played third base on a real talented team that won the district,” said Yoder. “I learned a lot from the seniors, particularly Danny Long. I learned a lot from him. Baseball is different, because it is more individual.
“My role is to make plays when they come to me and to get timely hits.”
And when the dust settles, he wants to walk away – with or without the earbuds – with no regrets.
“Our first goal is to win the division in both basketball and baseball,” he said. “But I also hope to have fun with both teams, be a good teammate and enjoy one last ride with them.”