The early morning scene in Orchard Valley Coffee shop in Campbell, California, was packed and vibrant, a welcome refuge from the near-triple digit dry August heat. The tables were filled with families, people reading the morning paper, a few others on their laptops, and a JV head football coach named Rob Mendez.
Coach Rob draws attention for a number of reasons — he sits in a tall, mechanized chair because he has no arms or legs, a reality for Coach Rob since birth. Coach Rob is clearly a regular. On numerous occasions, people come over, to chat about the upcoming season, to congratulate him on his recent ESPYs “Jimmy V” award win, and to even take selfies.
“I love writing,” Coach Rob said. It makes sense why — it’s a form of both creativity and independence. It’s why the saying that’s closest to his heart (and emblazoned on the back of his chair) is #WhoSaysICan’t. And when you get him talking, it’s clear there’s nothing Coach Rob can’t do when he believes.
Coach Rob Mendez opens up about using technology to achieve independence and enable his journey, on and off the field.What age were you when you got the football bug? Do you remember what the first moment was?
Yeah, it was the summer year going into my junior year of high school. I started realizing that football’s a lot more of a mental sport. I was able to call the plays, coach the quarterbacks. My coach in high school realized I was picking up the drills real fast. I was correcting my friends who were on the football team. By the time I was a senior, he had me run the quarterback drills. I think that right then and there I realized, I can do this. By my senior year, I started figuring out the X’s and O’s and the chess match between the offense and the defense.
So if this was 2003-2004, what was the technology at your disposal?
I didn’t have a smartphone. I would write on a notebook, take a picture of it or have assistance from someone that worked with me take a picture of it, and then I would email every coach my game plan. I was able to figure things out and work around it. But having this technology right here and on hand, or I should say on my nose, it’s more convenient and more of a time saver so I can just do things instantly on the football field and take notes and share them instantly.
Coach Rob Mendez using the S Pen on the new Galaxy Note10+ outside a coffee shop in Campbell, California.You recently said how, even from an early age, you never wanted to be left out.I think I’m naturally wired to always want to be a part of something I like. For example, when my sister was playing video games with her friends, I was three years younger than them and I saw them having so much fun that I wanted to go have fun with them. I rolled up, I roll on the ground, and I rolled myself right in front of the TV. My sister just put the controller right in my neck and I was able to press the buttons and just figure it out. I’ve always just wanted to be included in things. Sometimes it’s not for others to include you, even though that would be a perfect world or a situation where everyone thinks about everyone else. But the reality is, if you don’t put yourself out there, then no one’s going to put yourself out there.
That’s why I always say #whosaysIcant, because it starts with yourself first.
So you’ve been coaching for 13 years now, from a quarterbacks coach at the freshman level to a head JV coach at Prospect High. How does that feel?
My first coaching job was a quarterbacks coach at Gilroy High School, my alma mater. I started coaching in 2006 two weeks after I graduated. The kids were only four years younger than me. It was awesome because they knew who I was. They gave me a sense of importance at that level. Those kids started asking questions and things like that, and asking me for help, instead of me asking for help which I always do. I was being the helper and I think that gave me a sense of importance. That’s why I love football.
Coach Rob Mendez using the handwriting-to-text feature in the Samsung Notes app on the Galaxy Note10+.Now you’re the head JV coach at Prospect High. What’s that like?
I think the best part about our team is that they believe in my concept, which is loving each other and loving yourself and bringing that to the football field. So yes, it’s a dream come true in a way. But I’m definitely not done, it’s only the beginning.
How has tech helped you be a better coach?
I got introduced to Samsung in 2012, it was the Note II. It was a game-changer, mainly because I liked the pen. I was like, “Wow, I can do that.” What really impressed me with this technology, that I was able to do anything and everything. I didn’t have to ask anyone to help me pull out a notebook or a whiteboard while coaching — I can actually draw the football plays too. It’s enabled me to do things that I was not able to do prior to when the Note came out.
Coach Rob Mendez leads JV football practice at Prospect High School in Saratoga, California.You are on such an amazing, inspired journey. But no path is without hurdles and speed bumps. How do you find it in you to remain both optimistic and focused?
When you love something, you do it so … you put a lot of passion into it. You just don’t even realize. For me, my journey has never really been … I want to do this, I want to do that. All I want to do is be great in the moment. When you’re great in the moment, then it will lead you to the next step. I don’t want to ever skip steps, and I just want to put my heart in the moment. I’m going to go hard at whatever I do. I think that’s what got me to the next step always, is just trying your hardest at the job at hand, instead of wishing and hoping for the world to come to you, just be great at what you do.
Coach Rob Mendez stares at the wall of trophies at Prospect High School in Saragota, California.Coach Rob Mendez starts his JV season on August 30.Click here for more on the Galaxy Note10 and Galaxy Note10+