The daily creed tells you today is a blessing, use it for good or go ahead and waste it. Get yourself to practice at the crack of dawn and run that six-minute mile. There is no question that everyone will be at study hall.
It all mixes into the feeling that someone thinks they see a better future for you than you see for yourself.
Sometimes it takes getting to your future to realize how wise the lesson was.
For the men who grew up playing for Larry McKenzie, who retired as boys' basketball head coach at Minneapolis North this week after one of the most successful coaching careers in Minnesota history, the lessons remain.
“He always saw a lot more in people, especially his players, than they did in themselves. He would go up and say, 'You have to believe in yourself in order for me to believe in you.' ”
His former players are now in wildly different phases of life — but they are uniform about his impact: A blessing came to them at a crucial age, and they didn't realize how lucky they were.
"When you're 15 you don't want to hear what he's talking about," Isaac Johnson said Tuesday between laughs after finishing a workout as he prepares to play for Rogers State in Oklahoma. "By the time I got older and realized what was going on, we became super close. I started having dinner with his family like every Sunday."
Johnnie Gilbert, working now in law enforcement after playing for Oklahoma from 2000-05, played on McKenzie's first team at Minneapolis Henry.
"The one thing I still remember is when he first started he said, 'Hey guys, you gotta run a six-minute mile just to get on the court,' " Gilbert said.
A powerful 6-8 forward, he was the only player who didn't hit the mark. "He looked at me and said, 'You can come back tomorrow and try again,' " Gilbert said.
Tyler Johnson was driving home from Tampa Bay Buccaneers training camp when he thought back to McKenzie getting the Minneapolis North job and a phone call McKenzie made to returning players telling them their world was about to change.
"This was literally right after my freshman year basketball season, so basically we're in March right now, the next season is not until, what, October," Johnson recalled. "The main thing he was hounding on was we're going to do study hall."
Didn't matter your grades or social schedule, every player was expected to show up. If someone was getting all "A's," he could help teammates.
"He definitely allowed us to connect in different ways, to grow, to love each other," Johnson said. "He was big on school. At times we joked it off around, we feel like we're living in the movie 'Coach Carter,' but in reality it wasn't for him, he was doing that for us. He was doing that so that we could be set up longer down the road to make sure we're doing the right thing."
Nick Anderson spent four years as a manager for the Holy Angels basketball team under McKenzie. Anderson, who deals with mild cerebral palsy, didn't think much of McKenzie's promise to get him into a game during his senior season, until it happened — and Anderson buried a three-pointer to general pandemonium.
"He always saw a lot more in people, especially his players, than they did in themselves," said Anderson, working now as an eligibility administrator for the state retirement administration. "He would go up and say, 'You have to believe in yourself in order for me to believe in you.' "
“When you're 15 you don't want to hear what he's talking about. By the time I got older and realized what was going on, we became super close.”
No one felt that expectation more than Lawrence McKenzie, Larry's son who starred for the Gophers after winning four consecutive state titles at Henry playing under his dad.
"I had not just daily reminders but hourly, sometimes minutely and secondly, reminders of what's the right thing to do," Lawrence said. "He was not only a father to me, he was a father figure to so many other guys. I look at those guys now as brothers to this day."
These days Lawrence has a new passion, performing music as Mac Irv, but he still recited his father's creed off the top of his head and said he's building on the foundation, started by his dad, of how to be a good man and father to his daughters.
"You make a commitment to being the best that you can possibly be today," the younger McKenzie said. "Putting a brick down today, getting 1 percent better each day. That's what I live by. That comes from the creed and from the stuff that we learned in high school and the stuff we repeated every single day in high school at practice."