Lesson on Loving Your Family from Jeff Hornacek

Jeff Hornacek before a free-throw attempt

One of the highlights of my work week is when my two girls come in my office and interrupt what I’m doing.

Since my wife, Jennifer, leads Bible studies at our church and is a part of MOPS (Mothers of Pre-Schoolers), it’s not uncommon for my 2- and 4-year olds to come by my office at church once or twice a week before they head off to play with their friends in the church childcare. If you know me at all, you know that when I’m working at my desk, I tend to be focused and don’t really like interruptions. Jennifer calls it my “work mode” and knows pretty quickly if she calls me when I’m right in the middle of it.

Even if I’m in “work mode,” my girls have a free pass to come and see me in my office, give me a hug, knock a few things off my cluttered desk, and draw on my whiteboard. The only time they don’t have that pass is if I am counseling someone in my office. They’ve even interrupted meetings before, and I’m always happy when they do.

I learned it from Jeff Hornacek.

Jeff Hornacek? Former Iowa State University basketball star and one of the best shooters to play in the NBA?

Yep. He taught me something very important about always having time for your kids. Even when he was right in the middle of a game, he had time to say hello to his kids.

One thing that Hornacek was known for was stroking the side of his face several times before each and every free throw he attempted. Most basketball players have a routine they go through before attempting a free throw, but not many were so obvious as Hornacek’s face-stroking routine–especially considering that it required him to wipe the sweat off his hand before taking the free throw. And the reason behind his routine? It was a secret way of him waving and saying “hi” to his kids. Hornacek explained in an interview in 2000 that his kids wanted him to wave to them on TV when he was playing. He explained to them that he couldn’t just walk up to a TV camera in the middle of a game, but he developed a secret way of doing it in each and ever game: stroking his face before he took a free throw. “And this means, ‘Hi, I love you, guys.’ It was our secret wave back in the days. It’s not a secret anymore.”

So even Jeff Hornacek, an NBA all-star, had time for his kids in the middle of a basketball game, whether it was a preseason game or the NBA Finals. And it didn’t hurt him one bit. His career free throw percentage was 87.7%, and in his final season, he shot 95% from the free-throw line. Not too shabby. So the next time you don’t feel like you have time in your work schedule to love your kids, call your wife to check in, or meet your family for an impromptu lunch, remember: if Jeff Hornacek can do it, so can you.



    What a great article. I am in DC at my office and decided to look up Jeff Hornacek and why he swiped his face. I love this story. I remember seeing him do it all the time when I was a kid. It is great to know that it was a meaningful gesture to his kids. Now that I have kids of my own I think this lands with me in a different way and, you are right…if Jeff can do it, so can I. Great article.

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