KARNS CITY, Pa. (EYT/D9) — Under her gray and purple Karns City soccer pullover with “Coach Britt” stitched on it is a scarlet and gold North Catholic High School T-shirt.
Brittni Grenninger is the queen of multitasking.
She laughs when she talks about the strange juxtaposition of her soccer career these days as a head coach of one high school team — the North Catholic girls — a volunteer assistant with another — the Karns City boys — and as a phase leader for the Pittsburgh Hotspurs Soccer Club.
“At Hotspurs I oversee our U7-8 and U13 right now,” Grenninger said. “At North Catholic I have high school girls, and I come (to Karns City) and it’s high school boys.”
She pauses to let out a chuckle. “I have the full spectrum right now, but it’s all enjoyable for different reasons.”
Grenninger’s life has been all about soccer since she first put toe to ball on the pitch at the age of 5.
The Karns City graduate was so dedicated to the sport, she dragged her father, Jim, to soccer fields and eventually got him to toss football aside for “fútbol.”
Nearly three decades later, Jim Grenninger has more than 300 wins as a soccer coach and has built the Karns City boys program into a perennial District 9 power.
It doesn’t take long for Jim to point to the reason for his success.
“Her wisdom is a lot better than mine,” he said of his daughter. “I was just along for the ride.”
(Jim Grenninger and Brittni Grenninger)
The ride has been an interesting one for Brittni Grenninger, who at 12 was already eying a Division I scholarship to play soccer in college. She was certainly good enough. The instant she stepped on the high school soccer field at Karns City as a fast, physical and relentless player, she was a star.
She scored 34 goals during her freshman season, but the best was yet to come. Grenninger found the net a staggering 71 times as a senior in 2005 and finished her career with 194 goals and 100 assists.
Grenninger did reach her dream of playing Division I soccer, moving on to Saint Francis University. But injuries dogged her throughout her collegiate career.
Still, her love for the game never waned.
Grenninger moved to Florida and played for the Sol in the Women’s Premiere Soccer League before moving back home. Certain her life in soccer was over, Grenninger got an unexpected chance to stay involved in the sport when the girls soccer coaching position became open at Freeport High School.
She leapt at the chance and was hired.
Grenninger took over a struggling program and in just three seasons led the Yellowjackets to the WPIAL championship match in Class AA.
But all that success didn’t save her job in 2020 when her position was opened at Freeport. Devastated, Grenninger was once again convinced her soccer coaching days were over.
Her father, though, had a proposition for her.
“Come coach with me,” Jim Grenninger said.
Once again, Brittni jumped at the chance.
“I didn’t expect to have that year off,” she said. “But I’m just so grateful for the year I spent with him because it was one of the most fun years I’ve had as a coach, getting to enjoy it with him.”
There was a lot to enjoy last year for the Grenningers.
Jim notched his 300th career win and got to celebrate with Brittni by his side. Karns City also won the District 9 2A title.
Brittni Grenninger, though, will never forget the night her father earned his milestone victory and was thrilled she got to be a part of it with him as his assistant.
“I loved coaching with my dad last year, and I think one of the most fun games I’ve ever had the privilege to be a part of as a coach or a player was being with dad for his 3ooth win against Bedford,” she said. “That was just special for both of us. I’m so happy that I get to do this with him before he retires.
“He played football in college,” she added. “Football was his entire life until I wanted to play soccer. He learned the sport just so he could be involved with my brother and I. I’m so happy he’s still coaching and I get to share it with him.”
Grenninger had every intention of returning as a full-time assistant coach this season under her father at Karns City. The plan was for Brittni to take over for Jim as the head boys soccer coach at the school in the coming years.
But an opportunity at North Catholic was just too good for her to pass up — again.
Grenninger at first turned down the job with the Trojanettes, but North Catholic called her back this summer and she decided to go for it the second time around.
So conflicted about taking the job, Brittni was nearly in tears when she told her father she had accepted the coaching post at North Catholic.
Jim just smiled.
“Her dream was always to be coaching (at Karns City),” Jim said, “but she couldn’t pass up that kind of opportunity. I think it’s a great step for her and she seems happy.”
(Brittni Grenninger talks to some of her Hotspurs youth players.)
Brittni inherited one of the best players in the country in Jayden Sharpless. She also inherited very high expectations at North Catholic.
So far, so good. The Trojanettes are 3-0 and ranked No. 1 in the state in Class 2A.
Sharpless said Grenninger has already made a big impact, both on and off the field, at North Catholic.
“She understands the challenges we face as players and young women,” Sharpless said. “Coach Brittni creates a fun atmosphere, but also holds us accountable. I have faith we will continue to be successful with her as our leader.”
Grenninger is enjoying the pressure. She’s found it has gotten her blood pumping and her excitement piqued like she could have never expected.
“It’s exciting and challenging for different reasons,” Grenninger said. “You know, at Freeport I think we did a lot there and it was fun building a consistent WPIAL contender. It’s a different experience coming into a team that’s expected to win the WPIAL and contend for a state title. It’s competitive and demanding and that’s why I got into it. I miss it as a player, so it’s fun to feel it again as a coach, chasing those expectations and needing to keep the drive and desire there and focus day in and day out.”
She feels the same when she makes the journey from southern Butler County to help her father, going from one practice or game at North Catholic to another at Karns City or points north into Clarion County.
“I’m here every chance I get,” she said, smiling.
Grenninger, though, admits that until recently she had been feeling soccer burnout.
The way things ended at Freeport left her disillusioned. That’s why her work with the young, burgeoning soccer plays at Hotspurs has been a welcome experience for her.
“Coaching little kids can help you fall back in love with the game when things start to feel like a job for so long,” Grenninger said. “When you run out and see the 7- and 8-year-olds just having the time of their life — it’s just so pure. I needed that. It just gives me energy and reminds me of what it was like when I was a little girl playing and just having fun.”