Temple gymnastics coaches build off Rutgers roots

Coach Umme Salim-Beasley (center), assistant coach Michael Rosso (left) and graduate assistant coach Anastasia Halbig work with gymnasts during practice on Wednesday in Pearson Hall. | JAMIE COTTRELL / THE TEMPLE NEWS
Coach Umme Salim-Beasley (center), assistant coach Michael Rosso (left) and graduate assistant coach Anastasia Halbig work with gymnasts during practice on Wednesday in Pearson Hall. | JAMIE COTTRELL / THE TEMPLE NEWS

When Umme Salim-Beasley left her position as an assistant coach at Rutgers University in April 2015 to become Temple’s coach, she brought two fresh Rutgers alumni with her.

Graduate assistant Anastasia Halbig, who trained under Salim-Beasley as a student-athlete from 2012-15, and assistant coach Michael Rosso, who spent two seasons as a Scarlet Knights volunteer assistant coach, joined Salim-Beasley’s staff later that summer. All three agreed it didn’t take much convincing to come to Temple.

Halbig decided during her junior year at Rutgers in the 2013-14 academic year that she wanted to become a graduate assistant coach. She was considering several schools, but she quickly chose to come to Temple with Salim-Beasley.

“I knew gymnastics was such a big part of my life and I didn’t want to lose it,” Halbig said. “[Temple] just seemed like the right choice.”

Rosso said he had “no hesitation” about joining Salim-Beasley’s staff after his initial interview.

The pre-existing relationship among the three allowed them to focus on gymnastics, Salim-Beasley said. Now, in their third year together at Temple (4-2), the coaching trio has led the Owls to their highest national ranking in program history and a No. 40 rank on the floor exercise out of 82 teams. The coaching staff wants to lead the Owls to their first NCAA Regional appearance since 1992.

“It was going to be us being able to hit the ground running as far as getting started and revamping what we wanted to do with the program,” Salim-Beasley said. “We didn’t have to take the time to get to know how each other worked. It was pretty easy for us to get started right away.”

Because Halbig worked with Salim-Beasley as a student, they had an established level of respect and communication once they arrived at Temple, Halbig said.

Halbig works with athletes’ technical details on the balance beam and uses her experience as a former athlete to connect with and push the team.

Rosso was trusted with more responsibility as a Temple assistant coach than he had at Rutgers. As a student assistant, his responsibilities mostly involved equipment and setting up drills. Now, he directly coaches athletes in vault and floor exercise.

“I’m a more crucial part of making more crucial decisions on the day-to-day of the program, of the team,” Rosso said.

They all agree on the direction they want the program to take and have similar coaching styles.

“We really want to build our athletes up,” Salim-Beasley said. “We really find that they are more successful that way. They tend to believe in themselves, believe in their coaches, believe in their teammates when they are in a supportive environment.”

Rosso is positive about the outlook of the team. This year’s freshman class is Salim-Beasley’s first class to have been recruited exclusively by the current coaching staff, Rosso said.

“As a coaching staff, I think we’re going to keep growing and growing as the team keeps growing and growing,” Rosso said. “We created that foundation. We all know how each other work. Now we’re in year three and we really, really know how each other work.”

Halbig and Salim-Beasley’s Rutgers tenure spanned the 2012-15 seasons. Rosso volunteered as a coach during the 2014 and 2015 seasons.

In the first year all three spent together, the Scarlet Knights set the program’s top mark on the vault and posted the second-best scores in program history on the balance beam and floor exercise.

Rutgers set the program’s highest team score at the final home meet of the season with a 196.225 on March 8, 2014. Later that month, Rutgers notched its best score at the East Atlantic Gymnastics League Championships in program history.

The team qualified for NCAA Regionals, and Salim-Beasley won the EAGL Assistant Coach of the Year.

“Being part of that team together is something we remember, and something that we look forward to making as a team with Temple now,” Halbig said.

Jay Neemeyer
can be reached at jay.neemeyer@temple.edu. Follow The Temple News @TheTempleNews

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