Brooke Donabedian elevates Temple Gymnastics and won’t stop yet

The floor specialist has broken records and set new standards for the team, becoming an all-time great on North Broad Street while helping the next generation.

The current senior announced she’d be coming back for a graduate season, giving her a chance to build onto an already legendary career. | ERIKA MONN / THE TEMPLE NEWS

From the moment Brooke Donabedian stepped foot on Temple’s campus, she faced pressure to become one of the best. The floor and beam specialist was brought to Temple Gymnastics by former head coach Josh Nilson before the 2021 season to help redefine the program.

Nilson had a vision to turn the Temple program into one of the premier artistic gymnastics programs in the country when he took the job in 2018, but he needed the perfect athlete to complete his vision. As soon as he saw Donabedian on the mat, Nilson knew she would be the one to elevate the program.

“When I wanted to redefine what Temple was known for and I landed on that definition of artistic gymnastics, Brooke is that definition,” Nilson said. “She is exactly what Temple needed.”

Putting that kind of pressure on a freshman can be a bold move, but Donabedian took those expectations and completely blew them out of the water.

Four years later, she has turned Nilson’s vision into a reality, helping Temple find unprecedented success. Donabedian maintained Nilson’s vision after he left for Illinois following the 2023 season, and she has become one of the most decorated gymnasts in Temple history.

“Based on the accomplishments that I have here at Temple, that is exactly what [Nilson] was looking for,” Donabedian said. “I believe that I have helped the program grow as best as I can.”

The current senior announced she’d be coming back for a graduate season, giving her a chance to build onto an already legendary career. She has already broken records while bringing the program to new heights and becoming the face of a new era for Temple Gymnastics. 


Donabedian stepped onto the mat for the first time when she was three years old. After spending a couple of years competing in both gymnastics and soccer, Donabedian had to choose which one to stick with. She knew her athletic skill set was a better fit for gymnastics, so she went all in. 

Her talent on the mat became apparent very quickly, and she made competing in college her biggest goal. She nearly fell out of love with gymnastics due to a lack of support at Naydenov Gymnastics, her old gym. She decided to switch gyms and found herself loving the sport more than she ever had. 

“When I moved gyms, I refound the love when I connected with my new team and coaches,” Donabedian said. “The whole environment was really fun for me. It was a lot more hard work, but I had a passion for that.”

Donabedian switched to Metropolitan Gymnastics, which gave her the recruiting exposure she needed to fulfill her dreams of competing at the Division I level. Her background in ballet and dance gave her artistry on the mat that made her stick out to college coaches, especially Nilson.

The Tacoma, Washington, native was about as far away from Temple as possible, but she was sold on the program when she heard the plan Nilson had for her. Moving across the country was suddenly an easy decision.

“Coach Nilson was really good at selling Temple Gymnastics to me,” Donabedian said. “I really liked his idea of rebranding what Temple Gymnastics is, and I really wanted to be a part of it. I did not have a problem moving away from home.”

When Donabedian arrived on North Broad Street, it didn’t take long for her to take hold of the program and soar to new heights in the gym.


Donabedian showcased what she could bring to the team as a freshman in 2021. She earned second team All-East Atlantic Gymnastics League for the floor and first team All-EAGL Tournament honors for the floor and beam. Donabedian helped Temple win the EAGL Tournament, and the team earned a spot in the NCAA Regionals for the first time since 1994. 

Her success only heightened as her career went on. Donabedian qualified for the individual NCAA Regionals in each of the next three seasons as a floor competitor. She became the third Temple gymnast to earn an NCAA selection in the floor event and the first Temple gymnast to be named to three NCAA Regionals. She improved with each NCAA appearance, finishing 21st in 2022, 18th in 2023 and tied for fourth this season. 

Donabedian’s trophy case continued to grow each year. She earned first team All-EAGL for floor the last three seasons and second team All-EAGL for beam in 2022 and 2023, moving up to first team for beam this past season. She has also tied or set multiple Temple records on the floor, putting her among the best gymnasts in program history.

“She has been really good ever since the jump, and I have loved being by her side through all of it,” said floor specialist Renee Schugman, who roomed with Donabedian during their time at Temple. “Watching her get recognized for all these amazing things is really cool.”

As she excelled on the mat, Donabedian began to make her mark off of it as well, becoming a leader for her teammates. 

When Donabedian came in as a freshman, a group of upperclassmen assisted her adjustment to collegiate competition and made her feel comfortable in her new environment. Now Donabedian has taken on that role, helping the underclassmen feel at home while showing them the work she puts in to be great. 

“She is a lead-by-example type of person,” said Temple head coach Hillary Steele. “She comes in and gets her work done. She does not have to be vocal; everyone knows what they are going to get with Brooke in practice and competition.”

Donabedian’s legacy on North Broad Street is undeniable, helping the Cherry and White transform the program on the mat while ushering in a new generation of gymnasts.

“I don’t think [her legacy] needs a description — it is easy to see the legacy she has left,” Steele said. “She’s broken records, made regionals three times in a row, and people look back and remember her elegance and beauty as a gymnast. She has both the beauty and talent of doing gymnastics well.”


Donabedian’s legacy was not as clear around this time last year. She was suddenly faced with an unforeseen challenge in the middle of her career: navigating a coaching change.

On May 10, 2023, Nilson took an assistant coach job for the Illinois gymnastics team. The program he helped build was at a crossroads, and many of Temple’s gymnasts contemplated following him to his new venture.

However, Donabedian decided to stay in North Philadelphia, hoping to finish what Nilson brought her across the country to do.

“At the end of the day, I was committed to what he brought me in for which was the regrowth of the program, and I made the decision to stay because I wanted to be a part of that,” Donabedian said. “It was in the back of my mind that maybe I do want to stick with [Nilson], but I ended up staying because our new head coach Hillary had been an assistant coach, and I like her coaching style.”

Temple hired Steele as head coach on June 16, 2023, after she spent the previous season as an assistant coach. The in-house hire proved crucial in retaining Donabedian to continue to lead the program.

One year later, Donabedian had one of her best seasons with Steele at the helm. Steele feels her team wouldn’t be in the same place they are now if Donabedian decided to leave.

“We had a good relationship, and in my head, I expected everyone to stay ideally when I took over,” Steele said. “When she did decide to stay, it was great. She is a huge contributor and a leader to our team, and having her here is extra special.”


Donabedian is set to graduate from Temple’s School of Sport, Tourism and Hospitality Management this spring with a Bachelor’s degree in Sports Management. However, the NCAA granted athletes whose seasons were shortened by COVID-19 an extra year of eligibility, so she has decided to return for one more year in 2024-25.

She will be pursuing a Master’s degree of Science and Communication Management and is hoping to make the most of her last season while continuing to build on her legacy. Donabedian hopes to put a bow on a great career by helping her teammates experience the success she found in the last four years. 

“I want to see us climb in the rankings and have more consistency throughout the entire team,” Donabedian said. “I think we are really capable of it because we have so much fun and we do so much better when we are having fun. I think we can become regular season champions.”

Nilson brought Donabiden in hoping she could build his program. Four years later, Donabedian proved Nilson right. She set records, exceeded expectations and played a major role in reimagining the program. Even with one more year, the impact Donabedian has had is undeniable.

“She has raised the standard,” Nilson said. “We did things that no other program had ever done, but now they can look at what Brooke has done and realize, ‘You know what, it is possible here at Temple, and I can do it because it has been done.’”

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