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20 November, 2020

Time for John to split

One of Cairns’ most beloved gymnastics coaches, and a valued member of the Edge Hill Bowls Club, will say goodbye to the region next week.

By Tanya Murphy

John Straatsma, 75, has taught more than 5000 gymnastics students at Cairns PCYC over the past ten years, but was made redundant after COVID-19 brought the classes to a sudden halt.

He is moving to the Sunshine Coast to be closer to his daughter and grandchild and extended a fond goodbye to all his students.

“I’m really sad that I never got a chance to say a proper farewell to my students, so I want to tell them that I really enjoyed teaching them and best of luck for the future,” he said.

Mr Straatsma has been teaching gymnastics and high school sport programs, including badminton, soccer, basketball, and volleyball as well as outdoor education activities like bush walking, kayaking and scuba diving in four different states since 1967. He said it was a blessed life.

“It has been an absolute privilege to have had the opportunity to work with thousands of kids and adults from 1967 to 2020. I look back over the years and feel blessed. And I’m not quite finished yet,” he said.

The sprightly 75-year-old is still as fit as a fiddle doing cartwheels, handstands and trampoline flips and said he would continue seeking opportunities to teach in his new hometown.

Edge Hill Bowls Club Vice President Gary Victor said Mr Straatsma’s contribution to the club had been enormous.

“He’s down here most nights offering to teach beginners. His dedication has been phenomenal. We’re sad to be losing him and will miss him terribly,” said Mr Victor.

PCYC Sergeant Peter Fitzpatrick said John’s departure was a great loss to the Cairns PCYC and the Cairns gymnastics community and wished him the best.

“John’s 50 years of coaching experience has been invaluable to the young people of Cairns,” he said.

“I believe that coaching young people and practicing gymnastics for so long has always kept him young at heart.

“John would be one of the fittest and healthiest older persons that I know and is definitely a walking advertisement for the benefits of doing gymnastics.”

Mr Straatsma said an active life was its own reward.

“At 75, I don’t have any arthritis or health problems, I’m not on any medication, and I just love the freedom of being able to move and have energy and do what I like,” he said.

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