Deciding on the best place to raise a family can be tough. Joanna Saleem and her husband learned firsthand how hard it could be when planning their move from Pennsylvania to Indiana. 


Saleem said Muncie is the perfect place to have kids. She likes that the college town provides opportunities for children to stay involved while still being quiet enough to dodge the hustle and bustle of the big city.  


Ball State has a gymnastics program, too. 


That was the selling point for Saleem, the program’s head coach as of Aug. 19. 


“I knew there was a gymnastics program [at Ball State],” Saleem said. “I thought that would be somewhere that I could offer assistance if they needed it.” 


Ball State is the only Division I school in the state that has a gymnastics team, making Muncie an even more attractive option for Saleem. She grew up in Huntington, Ind., so it wasn’t a huge move from her home town, either. 


Muncie wasn’t attractive to Saleem solely for raising her kids, it also happened to be centrally located between Saleem and her husband’s families.   


“After a couple years as ‘mom’ living in Pennsylvania, we found ourselves driving back and forth to Indiana to see family all the time,” Saleem said. “We wanted to try and move back here instead of spending every vacation driving back.” 


She didn’t have any connections in Muncie when she decided to make the move though. The only thing on her mind was potentially getting her foot in the door at a gymnastics program close to her family. 


Saleem brought with her experience from West Virginia, North Carolina State and Iowa, and several different gymnastics clubs. 


Despite the strong resume, she was unable to get a volunteer spot with the team during her first year in Muncie. Nadalie Walsh, who left for Utah State in July, was able to invite Saleem to help the team during the 2012-13 season. 


“Last year, Nadalie [Walsh] let me come to volunteer with the program,” Saleem said. “I worked with the program a couple days a week while my son was in school and day care.”


It worked out perfectly for Saleem who was able to slowly move back into a coaching position as she helped athletes train on the beam.  


“Last year, [Walsh] contacted [Saleem] and said she needed some help, but she couldn’t pay her so she could work as a volunteer assistant,” junior gymnast Brooklyn Schumacher said. “On Tuesdays and Thursdays, she would come in and coach us on beam because she enjoyed it, and it kind of allowed her to get her foot in the door, so that worked out in her favor.” 


Saleem has worked in gymnastics since she was a college student at Indiana University. She coached gymnastics in addition to taking classes in order to lighten the financial burden.   


Now coaching will be her main focus. It’s a big change for Saleem from last season, but one thing will remain the same — the players she is coaching. 


“I know who can do what and what their goals are,” Saleem said. “Before we even start individual meetings, I have an idea of what each individual gymnast is trying to accomplish and their desire for where they want to take the program.”