Skip to main content

Nate’s Notes 33: Bronco Mendenhall | Hard Is Good

By September 27, 2022June 8th, 2023No Comments

Bronco Mendenhall

College football head coach, previously at the University of Virginia and BYU

Whatever happened to Bronco Mendenhall? - Cardinal News

I asked Bronco Mendenhall to share 2-3 lessons he’s learned that he most wants to pass along, and as always, he overdelivered.

First, hard is good. And it isn’t kinda good, it’s really good. Mendenhalls’ guiding principle at Virginia was “hard things together” which helped bond and unify his team. 

Second, relationships are more important than routines. Of the 100s of texts, emails, and messages Mendenhall has received since stepping away from coaching, not a single message has mentioned a play, a game, a season, or a record. Even though routines occupy most of our time, relationships are everything. 

Third, one of the greatest gifts we can give young people is high expectations with zero compromise. If we remove all obstacles or lower our standards for those we care about, we limit their opportunities for growth and development. Mendenhall loves seeing young people smile at adversity, knowing that they’re prepared for it and supported and nurtured through it. In Mendenhall’s words, extreme expectations, surrounded by love…that combination is a magical sweet spot to help people become. 

Fourth, Mendenhall is in the pursuit of AND: developing amazing players AND amazing students, with amazing social lives, who give back to the community, all while preparing themselves for the future. For Mendenhall, it’s never just about winning football games, because wins and losses are not substantive. “We can never have enough of the things we don’t need.”

And finally, when we stand at the end our life and examine the moments that truly matter, we’ll see moments where we were intentional about trying hard to help others. So let’s make our life’s purpose clear, and our highlight reel as long as possible, because eternity is the wrong thing to be wrong about. 

Mendenhall got more out of me than I had ever gotten out of myself, and our conversation today helped me see how he did it, all the while giving me insight into why: His life’s purpose, one that I think we should all strive to adopt, is to help other people reach their potential.

It’s a simple idea. Please take it seriously. 

Bronco Mendenhall Bio:

Bronco Mendenhall is the greatest leader I have ever known. At age 29 he became the youngest defensive coordinator in Pac-10 history. As head coach for BYU, he inherited a program with three straight losing seasons and immediately turned the program around, leading his teams to 11 straight bowl games, five 10-win seasons, and regular top 25 rankings. 

As head coach at the University of Virginia, Mendenhall’s team progressed from two wins to six wins, to eight wins and then nine wins as he led Virginia to the ACC’s Coastal Division Championship and Virginia’s first Orange Bowl appearance. 

But Mendenhall is known for more than his teams’ successes. His motto, Earned not Given, typifies his approach to coaching and life. And though he has stepped away from coaching this year, while looking for his next opportunity to positively impact the lives of others, he certainly did that today. I hope you enjoyed learning from Bronco Mendenhall, because I always do. 

Get Nates Notes In Your Inbox

Subscribe to Nates Notes to receive a summary of each podcast episode delivered to your Inbox.