Dan Foutz is of the Kenny Rogers school of thinking.
Like the country singer, the first-year president of Virginia Amateur Sports warned against counting his money while sitting at the table. In Foutz’s case, of course, money doesn’t necessarily mean dollars and cents but rather the measure of success for the 2017 Virginia Commonwealth Games.
Foutz, who succeeded longtime VAS president Pete Lampman in January, said he tried not to build up any expectations for his first go-round at the head of the state’s Olympics-style jamboree.
“If I set those,” he said of expectations, “I’m going to probably, more than likely let myself down.”
Instead, in the waning hours of the busiest weekend of his short tenure, Foutz sat in Liberty University’s LaHaye Event Center fresh and full of energy.
The weekend, which began for Foutz and the VAS staff on Thursday with meetings and a VIP banquet at LU, certainly bore the Olympic experience, at least for its new chair.
“I got that feeling,” he said, referring to the parade of athletes to the Games’ opening ceremonies and the involvement from big-name athletes like keynote speaker Bimbo Coles, of Virginia Tech basketball fame.
And over the next few days, as Foutz made his rounds to visit events ranging from chess to powerlifting to baseball, he was already brainstorming ways to improve the experience for athletes and volunteers alike.
“I’m thinking, ‘What else could we do? … What ideas do we have to make this thing better next year and into ‘19?’” he posited, referring to the 2019 State Games of America, to which VAS and Liberty will also play host.
Not that the 2017 Games were perfect, as Foutz was quick to point out. The brutal heat over the weekend and threat of severe weather on Saturday afternoon briefly delayed many outdoor events, and he heard of only one or two instances of basketball and softball coaches being ejected, and VAS said there were no major medical emergencies through midday Sunday.
Out in the heat, the sun-baked softball teams still competed late into Sunday.
Virginia Sting coach Scott Haley, who brought his team from Virginia Beach to compete for the weekend after a tournament in Roanoke was canceled, said he was impressed with the quality of Liberty’s facilities and the officiating through the weekend.
The Commonwealth Games’ two-day format wasn’t what Haley’s teams usually look for in a tournament — they like to play more games and generally do — but the quality of play was pretty good as well. If it was up to Haley, he said, he would expand the tournament and cast a wider net toward collegiate coaches looking to recruit in the tournament. A lot of small, local schools were there recruiting, but Haley said most of his girls are interested in scholarship programs that just won’t come to two-day tournaments with fields under 30 teams for each age group.
“It’s no Myrtle Beach Nationals,” Haley said, referring to the five-day, 70-team tournament his U18 team will go to next week, “and they could do it. But they need to find someone who’s willing to do it.”
Haley added that the timing worked well — the second-to-last weekend in July is relatively dry in the area when it comes to tournament selection — and that, if they expanded, the Commonwealth Games “could corner the market.”
For his part, Foutz seemed happy to hear feedback of any kind. He said VAS will take to heart any suggestions or complaints their athletes or supporters bring up over the coming months.
He also said he’s excited to see final tallies on both numbers of athletes and economic impact the Games brought to Lynchburg, totals that won’t be available in their entirety until after the long-course swim meet concludes in December at Liberty’s new natatorium.
But most exciting for the first-year president was the introduction to new sports, such as the first-ever eGames (competitive video gaming) and the enthusiasm for up-and-coming sports like ultimate and rugby sevens.
Growing those lesser-known sports and encouraging community involvement, not just from LU but from Lynchburg and the region as a whole, Foutz said, will be the focuses going into another year of the Commonwealth Games in the Hill City.