Dips Fan Day

Dips Fan Day

Thursday, August 2, 2018

Looking Back & Catching Up with Steve Hornor

How many trainers were asked to endorse car-dealerships
with Johan Cruyff? Hornor stands at far right.
It might be easier to state what Steve Hornor did not do during his tenure with the Diplomats rather than all the responsibilities he did fulfill. In his first year alone, Hornor served as head athletic trainer, equipment manager, locker room manager, launderer, booked all flights, hotel accommodations and arranged meals. “That first year was very difficult, but still very thrilling for a 24-year-old kid,” he fondly remembers.

What is equally impressive is that Hornor secured his multi-faceted job with the Dips prior to graduating from the University of Oregon. “I took my last final and drove from Eugene, Oregon to San Francisco, where the Dips were beginning their pre-season, and onto Phoenix prior to returning to D.C. two weeks later.”

Soccer was not Hornor’s first sport of choice. He played basketball at De Anza College in Cupertino, California. There he met Dave “Obie” Obenour, who is still Hornor’s mentor to this day. Obenour was named the first trainer for the San Jose Earthquakes and he tapped Hornor to serve as clubhouse boy.

Not only was this his introduction to soccer, but an introduction to an important career connection. The General Manager for the Earthquakes was John Carbray, and it is no coincidence that when Carbray became GM for the Diplomats in 1977, Hornor was one of his first hires.

A testament to Hornor’s athletic ability is the fact that he was first exposed to soccer in 1974, yet when he transferred to the University of Oregon to complete his undergraduate studies two year later he was the starting goalie for the Ducks. Hornor humbly states soccer was a club sport at the time, but it is still impressive how quickly he picked up and excelled at the game. 
 Hornor in action as photographed by
The Washington Star.
As a result of this experience, Coach Gordon Bradley used Hornor as an active player in practices. "I'm sure they (roster players) took it easy on me. Often, I practiced on travel days with those who had not played the day before. I did warm up Bill Irwin and the backup keeper frequently on game day."

As was to be expected in the NASL, the facilities provided to visiting teams varied, usually depending on the host team's operating budget and if the facility was shared with another professional team.

"Tulsa (Roughnecks) was filthy and very small. I vividly remember playing at Wrigley Field against the Chicago Sting (June, 1980). It was awesome to have been there but the locker room they gave to the visiting team was the room for umpires in Major League Baseball." Hence, a locker room meant to accommodate half a dozen was being used by upwards of 25 players and coaches.

That day at Wrigley provided another vivid memory for Hornor. A fierce thunderstorm forced a 28-minute delay in the action. He shares, “the two benches were in center and left field. The field ran from right field to third baseline. You could hardly see the players as they ran by on the field it was raining so hard. Lightning struck the top of stadium down the right field line. I think it was Bill Irwin in goal at that end of the field, and he took off running while the game was still going on. They stopped the match and we had a rain delay for a while. It was crazy." 

Hornor had to make a quick transition from Trainer to Director of Operations in the aftermath of a road match. "I had to make sure that the bus was available to leave the stadium when we were ready to leave. I would check us in at the airport and before we flew gave Tommy O'Hara anti-nausea medicine."

In what is still remembered as the biggest game in Diplomats history, it was Hornor who appeared on the front page of The Washington Post, much to his surprise. "An official (Gordon Arrowsmith) was struck in the head by a piece of ice that was thrown from the stands by a fan." Hornor attended to Arrowsmith, who was able to finish officiating the match. 

"The next morning, I was picking up the paper from my driveway and saw my picture. I remember thinking, 'why is the sports section on the outside?' I then realized it was the front page!" In their seven year history, Hornor was the only member of the franchise to be on the cover of The Post.

Life After the Diplomats
When the original Diplomats franchise was terminated in December, 1980, Hornor returned west and served as Head Athletic Trainer at Yuba Community College in California for the next 15 years. During this time he also worked with the U.S. Olympic Committee Medical Staff and the 1987 Pan Am Games. In 1996, he became Head Trainer and Director of Sports Medicine at Arkansas Tech University. 

Since 2005, Hornor has worked at the University of Central Arkansas as both athletic trainer and a clinical instructor. In 2015, he was inducted into the Arkansas Athletic Trainers Association Hall of Fame. Though he does not play sports anymore, Hornor loves to fly fish and ride his bike. 

After 41 years in the business, he is philosophical about his career. "It's a people profession, which is why I've remained an athletic trainer all these years. I've joked with my athletes no matter their age or status, and even when athletes are being paid to compete, it's still a game. At every place I've worked, I've done my best to look out for the well-being of athletes and help them compete at the highest level they can."

It's a shame that those 41 years did not include more time with the Dips!