This month, we caught up with Jon Lugbill, executive director of the Sports Backers, the nonprofit sports and fitness advocacy group with a commitment to powering an active RVA.
Hailed as the greatest whitewater canoeist of all time, Jon is also the only paddler ever to have appeared on a Wheaties box. True story!
That was back in 1985. And while racking up twelve World Championship gold medals and becoming a five-time world champion in C-1 slalom were pretty amazing feats (and don’t forget that Wheaties box!) he’s accomplished a few things in Richmond since then, too.
As the head honcho at Sports Backers, Jon steers the cart for events like the Ukrop’s Monument Avenue 10k, RVA Streets Alive!, Henricus Dauber Dash, and Dominion Riverrock, to name a few, plus the popular Anthem Moonlight Ride, a bike tour through RVA that thousands of families have enjoyed for five years now.
After two decades with the Sports Backers, Jon says he is proudest of the group of professionals who represent the organization and their leadership in the community.
“Collectively, our team inspires and motivates 7,000 volunteers a year. This level of management by a small staff requires leaders who know how to build a team,” says Jon.
With his leadership, that team seeks to enrich the lives of thousands of Richmonders through events that inspire people to get outside and get moving.
“We see the entire spectrum of people in the region benefiting from being physically active,” says Jon. “It is not a thing just for the young or just for the old, but for people of all ages. Some of our events are best targeted to certain age groups, while others have a broader appeal.” Jon cited one of the Sports Backers’ newer events, a riverfront urban lifestyle festival on Brown’s Island, as an example. “Dominion Riverrock is a great outdoor event for people in their twenties and thirties which also means it’s awesome for families with teenagers.”
Jon and wife, Gillian, live in the West End and have two daughters, Kelly, 22, and Stephanie, 19. About fatherhood, Jon says he learned the ins and outs from his own parents and from working with his wife over the course of their twenty-seven-year marriage. This executive and world-class athlete added that figuring out how to keep the wins and losses in life in perspective has been a bonus for him as a parent. “Perhaps my competitive experience helped me realize that the long-term goal of raising healthy, happy, and productive children was not going to happen easily or overnight,” says Jon.
Keep reading to learn more about the man behind the Sports Backers – husband, father, executive, and sports legend Jon Lugbill.
Mountains or beach?
I love the mountains. The hiking, kayaking, and biking are awesome in the mountains.
Dogs or cats?
I’m a dog person. We have two golden retrievers named Moose and Mocha.
What book is on your nightstand right now?
A book called The Third Mode. It’s all about bike and pedestrian infrastructure, and how it can benefit society to encourage these forms of transportation.
If you were stranded on a desert island, what food would you want to grow on trees?
I would want bananas. You don’t have to clean or cook them. You can just peel and eat.
Same island – what’s the one tech gadget you would want with you?
A satellite phone with a solar-powered charger so I could get off the island if I wanted.
Favorite Richmond restaurant for the whole family?
There are so many awesome choices. We never eat at chain restaurants. Our favorite probably has to be Stella’s. We really like the food and the atmosphere is great.
What is your favorite vacation spot?
I love that our family always goes to new places during vacation. The best trips have almost always involved National Parks. We have taken the kids all over America and have had some awesome trips. Invariably, my favorite vacations are when we do the most and see the most. I’m not a sit-on-the-beach kind of guy. I like exploring new places and seeing the world, and I think my family has enjoyed that as well.
Favorite family outing?
I love it when we bike right from our house to a lunch spot and bike back. It makes life seem more relaxed – like a throwback to a simpler time. I just wish the roads were safer to ride on so we would do it more often.
What is your energy source?
I love getting out and doing things. I like being active and learning and seeing new things. Fortunately I have a job that allows me to do that all the time.
Any advice for parents about achieving life balance between work and family?
Get your workouts in early in the morning before the kids wake up.You then have the rest of the day to go to work and spend time with the family. Cut out watching TV as much as possible. It is a time suck.
Finish this sentence. “My family loves it when I…
…totally unplug from work and am totally relaxed and am engaged with them. Now that my children are older, I’m lucky to have time with them at all. This makes it that much easier to unplug and engage because I value their time so much now.”