The Independent Student Newspaper of Northern Kentucky University.

The Northerner

The Independent Student Newspaper of Northern Kentucky University.

The Northerner

The Independent Student Newspaper of Northern Kentucky University.

The Northerner

Terry Gruelle: Fostering a love of NKU women’s soccer for over 20 seasons

Imagine having two careers that make people smile, literally and figuratively. 

That’s the reality for Terry Gruelle, who has a knack for creating beautiful smiles, both as an orthodontist and an assistant coach. At his offices in Northern Kentucky and Cincinnati, he juggles his time between working with patients of all ages and reviewing game footage from the NKU women’s soccer team.

While it may seem like an unlikely pair, Gruelle has always been passionate about orthodontics and women’s soccer, and he has balanced his two roles with skill and grace for 24 seasons and counting.

Terry Gruelle and Alumni Midfielder Macy Harper. (Provided by Subject)

Beginning his time with the team as a volunteer coach in the early years of the program, Gruelle joined the assistant coaching staff in 2000 with head coach Bob Sheehan. That same year, he led the team to the NCAA Division II National Championship game in his very first season with the Norse.

A few years prior, in 1997, Sheehan started the women’s soccer program at Northern Kentucky University. Before his arrival at NKU, Sheehan spent 13 years as the head coach at St. Ursula Academy in Cincinnati.

Terry and Bob at the F.C. Cincinnati game on Dec. 2. (Provided by Subject)

Gruelle was nearby, coaching in Fort Thomas at Highlands High School, but was looking for a change of pace after his daughter graduated.

The two had known each other previously from coaching high school team camps. Together, Gruelle and Sheehan built the NKU women’s soccer program from the ground up when Gruelle officially joined the coaching staff in 2000.

“We have come a long way. You know, we had hardly any budget all those years. But, you know, we have gone through a lot together and grown,” said Gruelle, reminiscing on the days before they had the facilities they do now.

Prior to the construction of Scudamore Field in October 2009, the team would often travel out to Wilder, Kentucky to practice at Town and Country Sports Complex, and the team played games on a grass field where Kenton Garage now resides. 

“We used to recruit out of the back of my car,” explained Gruelle. “We would show film out of the back, so it’s come a long way in a short period of time.”

Once the team reached Division I status in 2012, Gruelle and Sheehan brought on assistant coach Steve Bornhoffer to assist them with the program. Since then, they have seen over 300 team victories. 

“He’s great to have in the program,” Sheehan said when describing his time with Gruelle. “He is very passionate about it and relates well with student-athletes.”

Working between seven offices in the Northern Kentucky and Ohio area and then returning to NKU for practices, lifts and games can be a daunting task. However, for Gruelle, he finds it to be an outlet from his daily responsibilities. 

“That’s my mental break because I don’t think about other things. I just think about the team,” said Gruelle. 

He also said that he is able to attribute his flexibility between his dental and coaching career to the staff at his orthodontics practices. 

“They are absolutely wonderful that they allow me the time to do that,” said Gruelle. “I know that my hours are somewhat squirrely for three months, but they know that if not I’ll probably be screaming at them,” he chuckled. 

The relationships that he forms with the players are similar to those of his own family, and many look up to him as not only their coach, but as a mentor and friend. 

“He’s the oldest guy out there, but he acts like the youngest,” said NKU senior women’s soccer player Mickayla Kowalski. “He is just this bundle of energy and has this determination about him that brings such a determination to the team.”

Senior Goalkeeper Mickayla Kowalski on Senior Night with Terry Gruelle. (Provided by Subject)

Gruelle focuses his coaching primarily on goalkeepers, and Kowalski and her teammates are no stranger to his strong work ethic and charismatic nature.

“Terry always says that he gets to do things, he never has to. That’s his motto in life,” said Kowalski. “And it’s something that I take with me every day.”

Gruelle’s close bond with Bornhoffer and Sheehan allows for the three of them to successfully communicate both on and off the field and continue carrying the team to further championships. 

Within Gruelle’s time at NKU, they have had over 10 appearances in the national tournament.

When discussing his plans for the future with coaching and orthodontics, Gruelle does not see retirement as a part of it… at least not any time soon.