Natalie Verdeil has been kicking around a soccer ball since she was very young, and that passion has taken her places she never expected. In April, she will graduate from Thompson Rivers University (TRU) after five years as an integral player in its women’s soccer program.
“Both of my parents played soccer, so it’s just something that’s been part of our family,” said Verdeil, who grew up in Powell River. “I’ve been playing soccer since I was five, but I was probably kicking a ball around with my older sister for a couple of years before that.”
Verdeil played with Powell River Fury until she turned 16, then played for Vancouver Island Riptide, based out of Comox, for her final two years of high school. She committed to play for the TRU WolfPack during her Grade 12 year, and received a scholarship to study at the university in Kamloops.
“I majored in psychology and minored in biology, and would like to go on to do a master’s in physiotherapy,” said Verdeil. “Though I might take a year off first; that’s sounding pretty good right now.”
After making the playoffs in her first year, the women’s soccer program at TRU saw a lot of changes.
“I’ve had three different coaches over my five years with the WolfPack,” said Verdeil. “It’s pretty rare to have that much turnover in post-secondary sport. The first change happened in my second year, and a lot of experienced players decided not to continue, so for the last three years, we have been focused on building the team back up.”
Verdeil was named co-captain of the team in her third year. She was a finalist for the TRU Athletics’ Cliff Neufeld Leadership Athlete of the Year award last season, and says the focus on rebuilding has been a positive experience.
“Having that focus has given me a lot of good life skills,” she said. “My role as co-captain also allowed me to help the new players and watch them grow with the program. Even though I won’t be around for the program’s successes later, it’s nice to know that I will have had a part in them.”
Even though Verdeil still has more education to pursue, Powell River remains close to her heart.
“When I am away, I miss the ocean a lot, and the greenery, the mild temperatures, and the smaller city,” she said. “I may ultimately end up back in Powell River, but I have to finish my master’s first.”
Wherever she goes, soccer will continue to be part of her life.
“It would be hard to give it up now,” she said. “I’m really thankful for all the opportunities I’ve had because of soccer, and I’ve had those opportunities because of the level of support for the sport in Powell River. I had great coaches and people around me who cared about the players and our success, and I am really thankful for that. It had a big impact on what I was able to do at TRU.”