Gymnasts returning Coach Joe’s help

Published 9:11 pm Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Laurel Goff is one of Joe Bystrom’s many gymnastics students over the past four decades in the Churchland area. Bystrom was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia in April. World Class Gymnastics Too is raising donations for the Joe Bystrom Care Fund at its Gym Night on Friday evening and at Towne Bank locations.

Joe Bystrom has taught flips and gymnastics in Portsmouth, Chesapeake and North Suffolk for 33 years and on Friday, World Class Gymnastics Too near Driver will be raising donations for “Coach Joe” with “Flips for Joe.”

Custom-made flip-flops for sale are just one of the ways to donate to the Joe Bystrom Care Fund, and World Class Gymnastics is turning its annual Gym Show into the marquee event for raising money for Coach Joe, who’s in critical care with acute myeloid leukemia at the Medical College of Virginia in Richmond.


Bystrom was an art teacher in Portsmouth schools for 33 years. He was a high school gymnastics coach until Portsmouth schools terminated gymnastics in 1996.

Email newsletter signup

Despite the blow to the sport, Bystrom continued being there for kids by taking his equipment and coaching to the Tidewater Community College Portsmouth campus. He led All Star Gymnastics there until the campus closed in 2009.

“His passion for gymnastics is only outweighed by one thing, his passion to be a positive role model and build the self esteem and confidence in the life of a child,” said Louise Bright, parent of a World Class gymnast and publicity volunteer for the team.

During Bystrom’s time coaching All Star Gymnastics, many of his former gymnasts had their children start gymnastics under their former coach.

Tami Harrison, owner of World Class Gymnastics, bought Bystrom’s business in 2009, making for the second World Class facility along with the original gym in Newport News. At the same time, Harrison hired Coach Joe.

Bystrom was diagnosed with cancer in April. He’s been through two courses of chemotherapy. Doctors are seeing if the cancer is in remission and if they can find a bone marrow donor. If those paths are unsuccessful, another round of chemotherapy will be needed.

Even in the last couple months, Bystrom’s stayed up to date with the World Class gymnasts and their progress.

As an art teacher, he’s let the kids on what he calls “his journey” with an ongoing series of illustrations put up at the gym.

The World Class Gymnastics annual Gym Show is a chance for the recreational gymnasts to perform in front of family and friends, showing what they’ve learned through the last year. The competitive World Class team, based in Newport News, will put on a demonstration as well. The event is open to the public and free. It’s set for Friday at 6:30 p.m.

The Flips for Joe will be on sale. All concession proceeds for the evening will go to the Joe Bystrom Care Fund; helping with Coach Joe’s medical and living expenses. Donations can also be made at any Towne Bank location.