The gym at the E.J. Henderson Foundation was open for the first time in years.

After lying dormant for years in a large storage area at Minneapolis North High School, it was alive Monday as massive garage-style overhead doors were opened to their fullest, bringing the outdoors in. The boom and clang of weights reverberated throughout the neighborhood.

Lifting in spurts, then breaking to run 10-yard sprints in small groups, about 30 North football players gathered for the first time since meeting as a group March.

There was laughter and conversation, shouts of encouragement and growing sweat stains, and very few masks.

Longtime coach, statistician and beloved team matriarch Beulah Verdell was giddy about starting her 21st year with the football team.

“It’s wonderful,” Verdell said. “I can’t even describe what it means. It’s a whole new level of excitement.”

For this day, the coronavirus, the recent civil unrest and calls for social change made room for working out together again.

“I’ve been waiting on this day,” junior receiver Rio Sanders said. “I was excited for sure. We already got our bond back.”

Lodged in the backs of everyone’s minds was the fate of North head coach Charles Adams III. A Minneapolis police officer, Adams was the student resource officer assigned to North until the Minneapolis Public Schools recently ended its relationship with the city’s police department.

Adams, a 1999 North graduate, remains the coach. But players expressed concern about not having him in the building.

“All the players go to him,” senior quarterback Zach Yeager said. “If there’s a problem, we go to him sometimes before we go to our counselors. He’s like a father figure to all of us. Not having him in the school will be a big change for us.”

Adams, too. He’s still waiting to hear what his new job will be, hoping whatever assignment receives won’t conflict with his coaching duties.

But Monday, it was all about getting ready for a season that ideally will see the deep and talented Polars play on a newly renovated field, complete with field turf, and end in a state championship. Adams said getting back to doing what he loves best, coaching football, is “my therapy.”

“I told the kids ‘I need you all.’ I need you all to be here, I need you all to be consistent,” he said. “This is what’s helping me right now. I don’t need to go to no sessions and talk to anybody. I’m here to talk to you. That’s what this is all about.”