Ultimate, formally known as ultimate Frisbee, combines, Frisbee, football and soccer all in one game. The basic rules are this: You try to move the disc into the other team's territory and score points by throwing the disc to your teammates. You can't run with the disc, and you have to throw it within 10 seconds of catching it.

Guido Strotheide says he always liked throwing a Frisbee around when he was young. But ... .

"While playing catch is fun, there's not a lot to it. When I found out there was a sport you could play a game using a disc, I liked the idea of adding another objective to throwing and catching," he said.

That game is ultimate - formerly known as ultimate Frisbee. The sport reportedly was invented in 1968 following a high school student's whim to create a counterculture "ultimate game experience" based on a combination of Frisbee throwing and a number of "invasion" games, such as football and soccer, in which the offense tries to get into the other team's territory.

The basic rules are this: You try to move the disc into the other team's territory and score points by throwing the disc to your teammates. You can't run with the disc, and you have to throw it within 10 seconds of catching it. (See information below for more details.)

"I couldn't even throw a Frisbee when I started," says Amanda Riechers, 22, who plays locally and plans to continue playing when she moves to Kansas City. "I liked it because there's always something new to learn - and it can be fun for all levels. You don't have to be a pro at it."

Self-officiated games with loose rules dotted high school and college campuses as the popularity of the game spread.

By 1970, Sports Illustrated wrote about the first International Frisbee Tournament - and there are now more than 4.9 million people playing Ultimate in the U.S.

Despite its counterculture roots, the game has become a legitimate sport, overseen by a national governing body: USA Ultimate.

Strotheide has been a fan of ultimate since 1997, when he attended a pickup game with competitive player Mark Rigney. Strotheide started playing weekly drills and caught Frisbee fever, playing with a few other groups in the Springfield area.

Strotheide and Riechers regularly play with a group of 20-25 people who range in age from high school kids to 40-somethings.

Strotheide's group plays pickup games and tournaments according to the current version of USA Ultimate rules, gradually introducing finer points of the rules as they apply. But the nature of the game doesn't allow for rules to be manipulated at the expense of the fun, a complaint sometimes registered by players and fans of traditional sports.

"In games where you have referees," Strotheide says, "it seems like the games have developed to a point where players try to get away with things ... . In ultimate, the (rules) have helped create a culture that frowns upon that sort of play - and I really appreciate that about it."

The "spirit of the game," Strotheide said, is a rule designed to allow self-officiating in games with the idea that "competitive play is encouraged, but never at the expense of respect between players, adherence to the rules, and the basic joy of play."

Riechers, a veteran player of many team sports, has seen ultimate played from a few different perspectives - from "hippieish" to competitive.

"It's a mix of rebellion and organization, (but) at the root of it, you know that everyone out there wants to try their best and have fun," she said.

In addition to the fun, playing ultimate can be a healthy activity. Ultimate involves more than just a little running and jumping, both heart-healthy activities.

According to Livestrong.com, an average-sized man or woman playing ultimate can burn about 526 calories per hour - about the same as running at 5 mph.

"I am not the biggest fan of running," Strotheide says, "and there is usually a ton of running in ultimate. The game keeps me interested and distracts me from paying a lot of attention to how much running I'm doing."

How to play ultimate

Rules from USA Ultimate:

Ultimate is a non-contact team sport played around the world. It mixes features of soccer, basketball, American football, and netball into a challenging game.

It is played on a rectangular field (70 yards by 40 yards) with end zones at each end and seven players on each side.

The defense throws ("pulls") the disc to the offense. Each time the offense completes a pass in the defense's end zone, the offense gets a point.

The offense advances the disc by completing a pass (throw) to a teammate. Players may not run with the disc. The person with the disc ("thrower") has 10 seconds to throw the disc. The defender guarding the thrower ("marker") counts out the stall count. When a pass is not completed (for example, the disc goes out of bounds, is dropped or
blocked/intercepted, the defense immediately takes possession of the disc and becomes the offense (like in soccer).

No physical contact is allowed between players. When it does, a foul is called.

Players officiate their own games and the "Spirit of the Game" encourages everyone to follow the rules, respect opponents and have fun.