BEMIDJI -- Doreen Zierer waltzes into the weight room, taps her phone’s screen a few times and gracefully settles into a machine.

A week into retirement, Zierer is just where she wants to be.

“Well, I’m getting older,” Zierer said with a laugh. “I know that I have to keep moving, or otherwise I won’t be able to move. Having recently started playing pickleball in the last couple years and really enjoying it, I want to get back into a little better physical fitness level to play better pickleball.”

Zierer is the president of the Bemidji Pickleball Association, but her resume doesn’t end there. After about 15 years on the job, she retired from the Bagley School District as its athletic director and dean of students on June 30 -- yet she still proudly sported Flyers maroon at Bemidji State’s Gillett Wellness Center on Thursday.

Doreen Zierer exercises in the Gillett Wellness Center weight room on Thursday, July 8, 2021. (Micah Friez / Bemidji Pioneer)
Doreen Zierer exercises in the Gillett Wellness Center weight room on Thursday, July 8, 2021. (Micah Friez / Bemidji Pioneer)

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Zierer is also back at her old stomping grounds on campus, as she’s the winningest BSU women’s basketball coach in program history with 129 victories between 1990-2002. She also served as Bemidji State’s athletic director from 1995-2001.

“It was a great experience,” she said. “Fun with the kids, fun to work with different ages. I’ve always liked the athletic piece, so that was kind of second-nature. Being the dean of students at the elementary (school) was very rewarding.”

Going back even further, Zierer was an All-American women’s basketball player at Northern Illinois from 1979-82 and even played professionally in Ireland.

Now, she’s focused on getting all she can out of retirement.

“(I’d like) just this kind of life,” she said. “It was a little hectic, I think, working especially the athletic piece of it this past year. It’s been nice to have the freedom to do what you want to do, when you want to do it.”

That rings even more true now. The Gillett Wellness Center announced in late June that it has reopened its doors to the community. Previously, the facility closed “until further notice” in March 2020 due to the pandemic.

In its reopening announcement, the Gillett posted summer hours from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Friday, and 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Saturdays. Masks and social distancing are not required, and the building’s pool is open Monday through Saturday. They also debuted new, rentable hallway lockers to boot.

Bemidji State recently installed new hallway lockers at the Gillett Wellness Center. The facility recently reopened to the community. (Micah Friez / Bemidji Pioneer)
Bemidji State recently installed new hallway lockers at the Gillett Wellness Center. The facility recently reopened to the community. (Micah Friez / Bemidji Pioneer)

Inside the gym, basketball courts have opened back up, as has the weight room, the racquetball courts and the workout equipment around the facility.

Admission is free for Bemidji State and Northwest Technical College students during the school year, and daily passes are $8 for community members. The facility also offers monthly, summer and annual membership packages.

For Zierer, who frequented the Gillett Wellness Center on evenings and weekends pre-pandemic, the reopening is a welcome sight.

“I did a lot of stuff down in my basement (during the pandemic). Or else I lifted at Bagley schools,” she said. “I do have a gym in my basement. Not nearly as nice as this, but it worked.”

Back in business and back in person, Zierer migrates around the quiet weight room to a number of machines. She uses an app on her phone to track her workout, and she carries her smile with her to each stop.

She’s fresh off a morning of pickleball at Algoma Park, and she hopped over to BSU immediately after to squeeze in a lift.

But she’s in no rush. She’s retired.

“June 30 is really when I started getting back into (the Gillett),” Zierer said. “It’s nice. Very nice.”