Brittany Verrill’s days start shortly after they end. She’s in bed at around 3 a.m., and up at 6. Sacrificing sleep is the only way she can get everything done.
Verrill is a single mother of three, a dedicated employee of her family business, a nursing student – and, at age 35, a midfielder for the Southern Maine Community College women’s soccer team.
“She is the closest thing to Superwoman that I will probably ever see in my life,” fellow second-year soccer player Ammelia Lunt said. “She’s the strongest person I know, holds so much on her shoulders, and does it gracefully.”
Late August means preseason for SMCC soccer, with several practices or other team events a day. Verrill wakes up at her usual time, drives her daughter to a relative’s house in Auburn, and returns home to Bowdoin, an hour round trip. Then she’s off to SMCC’s South Portland campus, an hour each way, for a 9:30-11:30 a.m. practice. Then she’s back to Bowdoin to make lunch for one of her sons.
“Usually I have all three of them, but it just so happened that they were going their separate directions today,” Verrill said.
After helping her mother build a chicken coop, Verrill drove back to SMCC, this time with her son, for another soccer practice. The after-practice plan? Grab groceries, make dinner, and prepare for a triple-session the next day.
Schedules and responsibilities change during the school year, but Verrill’s packed slate never ends and always includes her children: Madelyn, 15, Collin, 13, and Granten, 8.
“I want to be there for my kids, my teammates, do my school work properly and financially,” Verrill said. “To have all of that on my shoulders can get very overwhelming, but if I didn’t get overwhelmed, I wouldn’t be putting my heart into everything that I have going on. If this is what I want to do, then I’ve just got to do it.”
The road to college soccer
Verrill played soccer throughout high school before graduating in 2005 from Pine Tree Academy in Freeport. She went off to college for a year but moved back to Bowdoin, had her first child, and got married. After being a stay-at-home mother for five years, she started working for her parent’s company, Atlantic Coast Towing in Brunswick, where she still works on a nearly full-time basis. She and her ex-husband had two more children before divorcing two years ago.
Verrill decided to go back to school shortly after the divorce. She had thought about it for years, ultimately choosing to study nursing because of a long-held desire to work in health care.
Soccer, however, wasn’t on her radar until Matthew Richards, SMCC athletic director, sent out an athletic interest form to all students. Verrill always kept in shape and played in a co-ed adult soccer league, but hadn’t played competitively in 15 years. Still, she filled out the form.
Shortly after, women’s soccer coach and Assistant Athletic Director Ethan Wells called. They set up a meeting, one where Wells recalled Verrill being “very prepared;” he offered her a spot on the team, to become the oldest SMCC athlete this century. Maybe ever.
A team player
Verrill’s teammates knew nothing about her. Lunt thought they were about the same age. When the team went out for their annual four-mile preseason run around Fort Williams in Cape Elizabeth, Verrill beat everyone.
With most of her teammates at least 10 years younger, many fresh out of high school, Verrill worried she’d fall behind on the field. No need.
“She runs circles around us,” Lunt said.
After finishing the Fort Williams run, and while her teammates gasped for breath, Verrill continued sprinting all the way to her car. One of her children had an appointment.
Lunt is uniquely familiar with Verrill’s lifestyle. They grew close last fall, carpooling from their homes in central Maine to SMCC soccer practices and games. They’re also both enrolled in the school’s nursing program.
The younger players on the team approach Verrill for advice, and no topic is off the table. Dating. School. Finances. On the field, Verrill believes her age helps her because she’s confident in her moves, and it rubs off on her teammates.
“Brittany essentially is the gold standard for what I envision SMCC to stand for, both as a student and for our program,” Wells, the coach, said. “These experiences take heart, and she does that to the Nth degree.”
With a limited roster because of injuries last fall, Verrill started all 12 of the Seawolves’ games and played just about every moment of each 90-minute contest, notching four goals – including two game-winners – and an assist in her first collegiate season. She’s a fixture in SMCC’s lineup again this year and hopes to exhaust her college eligibility by playing two more years after this one.
“It’s not just the sport that I love, it’s the community I have here too,” she said. “It’s a good outlet for me. I don’t do much for myself except for this.”
Verrill credits a strong support system – family, friends, and the SMCC soccer program – with helping her balance her sometimes daunting schedule. She never misses anything and attends every SMCC soccer practice and game, only occasionally leaving early or arriving late to ensure her children get where they have to be.
All three of her children play sports, and daughter Madelyn implores her mother to coach her team. Her kids often come to practice, and they’re fully in awe.
“’My mom plays soccer for a college,’” Verrill said they tell their teammates. “For your own teenage kids to want to share you with their friends, that’s pretty rare, right? That’s one of my favorite things.”
She said she felt guilty that she was going to be taking away time from her kids by playing soccer, but all three of them said she had to do it.
“They were proud of me for doing it, so then I felt that, OK, that is my confirmation that yes, I do need to do this,” Verrill said. “My No. 1 goal is to provide a good example for my children and let them know that any goal that they have in life, they can achieve it no matter what age they are.”
Portland native Greg Levinsky writes the Game On column for the Phoenix. He can be reached at [email protected].