JoAnn VanDerschaaf is many things to many people.
To her students at REPS Gym and Physical Fitness Center she’s an inspiration.
To her former students and athletes in the Brookings School District, she’s Coach Van.
Soon, to her family, she’ll be grandma.
About a dozen of her friends from the gym threw VanDerschaaf a farewell party July 17 at Azalea Park before she moved to follow her son and pregnant wife to Nampa, Idaho.
“She’s been our inspiration, our muse. She really gets you going,” said Darlene Ashdown, one of her stretch-and-balance class enrollees.
With educational training in fitness, VanDerschaaf, 63, has developed close relationships with her students, both youth and adult.
“At school, I coached and taught, coaching kids in volleyball, basketball, softball, track and as a full-time sub in middle school and high school,” VanDerschaaf said. “I jumped around from school to school. That’s why I know all the kids. I know all their names. Because you know, subs are in trouble if they don’t know the names of all the kids.”
When she was coaching, VanDerschaaf said she always made sure to submit a write-up to The Pilot, “to make sure all the kids got their picture or name in the paper. And when my buddies and I were in triathlons, we alway put it in the paper, too.”
She also taught fitness and exercising classes, first at Fitness at the Gym, or FATC, for 10-1/2 years before REPS purchased the facility iocated at 98158 Benham Lane in March. Then the COVID-19 pandemic hit and she was technically out of a job while the gym was closed as part of the state’s stay-at-home order. But VanDerschaaf was never inactive.
“During when the gym closed, she would send exercises to do. It was really great,” said Cathryn Anderson. “She’s really kind. Fun. I took bootcamp with her. She works you hard. But she says do your best. Adapt. Just keep moving.”
Now VanDerschaaf herself is moving to a small town just outside Boise.
“My youngest son bought me a house and they’re going to start having kids,” VanDerschaaf said. “They promised me when someone starts having kids, I’m going to move closer. I told him to just find me a tiny house with a big yard, because I do a lot of gardening.”
Former fitness student Kristina Richison took over VanDerschaaf’s stretch and balance class as instructor. Richison said she knows VanDerschaaf is a hard act to follow.
“She taught me everything. I started joining her classes. We became very good friends. When you see someone between two or three times a week, you become very good friends. She’s very educated,” Richison said, who’s known VanDerschaaf for nearly eight year. “She knows so much about stretching, the body and how to take care of yourself. I’m not worried about filling her big shoes. She’s given me a lot fundamentals. As long as I use those, I’ll do great.”