The Grueling Conditioning Drill That Helped the N.C. Courage Become the Fittest Team in Women's Pro Soccer

The North Carolina Courage currently lead the NSWL by a wide margin, and their incredible endurance is a huge reason why.

The North Carolina Courage are running roughshod over the National Women's Soccer League.

The club currently sports a 16-point lead over second place Seattle Reign FC, as they've lost just one match in 19 contests so far this season. One reason the Courage have been so tough? Their extraordinary conditioning.

"I'd say we're definitely the fittest team in the league. That's attributed to the amount we run on the field and the style of soccer we play," Kristen Hamilton, a 26-year-old attacker for the Courage, recently told STACK. "We're a very high press, high attacking, aggressive team. If you want to play and you want to be on the field, you're going to have to be fit enough to do that work."

Just how much ground do the Courage cover? An article by The 42 revealed that Denise O'Sullivan, a midfielder for the team, covered nearly 20 miles during a week of training earlier this season. "All of our training is very high intensity, (head coach Paul Riley) tries to keep them a little shorter because we do practice at such a high intensity. It just wouldn't be plausible for us to practice two hours at that level," Hamilton says.

While the practices themselves are plenty exhausting, Riley will also program additional running prior to certain training sessions. One conditioning drill that sounds particularly brutal? The Superfield.

"One of the fitness exercises we do is called the Superfield. The field is broken up into four pieces. You'll sprint one sideline and then jog the rest of the field. Then you'll sprint two sections and jog the rest. Then sprint three and jog one. Eventually, you end up sprinting the entire field. It's something we'll do before training," Hamilton says. So both sidelines and both end lines count as a "section", giving you four sections in total. The fields at WakeMed Soccer Park, where the Courage train, are 120 yards by 75 yards. Sprinting the entire perimeter means a jaunt of nearly 400 yards.

In the "Superfield" Drill, each side of the field is one section

To make this drill more manageable for younger players, you can use half the field. Simply consider the midfield line as an end line and apply the same principles the Courage use—sprint one section, then jog three. Then sprint two sections, then jog two. Then sprint three sections and jog one. Finally, sprint all the way around the four sections. Rest intervals can be added and tweaked as needed depending on the player's fitness levels.

Photo Credit: NCCourage.com, Mojito_mak/iStock

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Topics: SOCCER | SOCCER DRILLS | ENDURANCE | CONDITIONING DRILLS | WOMEN'S SOCCER