When she was considering the job as head coach for the gymnastics team, Umme Salim-Beasley had one big question.
Two years removed from the university’s athletic department officially stripped five sports of their Division I sponsorships, Salim-Beasley questioned the department’s commitment to keeping the gymnastic’s program around.
After months of preparation by the athletic department as well as anticipation from the team, room 100 of McGonigle Hall has been revamped into a state-of-the-art training facility for the team, silencing any doubt in Salim-Beasley’s mind.
The 8,500-square-foot facility includes a free-fall foam pit, new trampolines, new bars and beams and office spaces for the staff. A designated cardio area will also be housed within the facility, as well as designated areas for each separate event.
“I think they feel important,” Salim-Beasley said of her team. “It’s never fun as a student athlete to feel that you’re being neglected or that the administration is not on your side or does not want to give you what you need to be successful. … It was essential for us to have this to make strides for the future.”
The team officially announced the move from its old facility, located in McGonigle Hall rooms 143-144 on Dec. 1, 2015. On Jan. 10, room 143 was vandalized by five juveniles. There was an estimated $5,000 worth of damage, including smashed mirrors and a television.
In McGonigle 143-144, the team’s practice area was divided in two. Members of the team who performed different routines were separated for most of practice. It was difficult for team members to encourage one another, and some members only saw one another at the team’s competitions.
Senior all-around Reagan Oliveri appreciates the fact that along with the new equipment and landing surfaces in the facility, the team can be physically closer together.
“It’s actually really exciting having all of us in the same gym,” Oliveri said. “The old gym had two sides so you miss a little bit; cheering was a little bit harder, and I think the new facility has brought us closer together as a team. The facility gives us a better chance for our competitions.”
Along with being able to have the team together in one space, junior all-around Briana Odom said another one of the biggest upgrades to the facility has been the free-fall pit.
In the team’s old facility there was no foam pit. Odom said the addition of the pit gives team members not only the ability to practice more in-depth routines, but helps eradicate the underlying fear of injury when landing those routines going forward.
“It was just hard for us to get that confidence to do a bigger routine in the old gym,” Odom said. “It was kind of like, ‘Oh, I’m kind of nervous, I don’t know about the landing.’ With the foam pits, you can kind of just play around, try things and get better without the worry of, ‘Oh, I might crash, I might get hurt.’”
Salim-Beasley said another benefit of the new facility is the ability to form a better recruiting pitch.
Even before the facility was finished, recruits were shown both the old facility and the makings of the new one in an effort to persuade them to consider Temple.
“I think we’ll really see a progression over the next two-to-three years,” Salim-Beasley said. “But even this year it’s a start because we’re at least getting recruits to come in and see the differences and the changes that are happening so they can have a vision of what direction the program is going in.”
Daniel Newhart can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @dannynewhart.