Coaching commendations

Roncalli High School swim coach Ed Merkling retires after 19-year career

By Patrick R. Murphy

Ed Merkling and Ben Dexter (right) hug at the recognition dinner on Aug. 7 at Primo Banquet Hall. Dexter gave a speech about Merkling’s impact on his life.
Photo by Patrick Murphy

On Aug. 7, Roncalli swimming and diving head coach Ed Merkling, was recognized at a dinner for his 19-year coaching career at Primo Banquet Hall.

Merkling had some time to think about the decision and wanted to walk away from coaching “gracefully.” Merkling said it was a hard decision to make.

“Even after I made the decision, I still wasn’t at peace with it,” Merkling said. “Because I saw myself as a coach.”

In his career, Merkling coached more than 500 boy and girl athletes. Of those athletes, according to Roncalli’s biography about Merkling, 11 were individuals who qualified for IHSAA (Indiana High School Athletic Association) state, 12 were a part of three relays and one was a state champion.

The state champion was Ben Dexter. Dexter, who swam for Merkling since grade school, said Merkling was like a “father figure” to him.

“A lot of lessons were taught both outside of the pool and in it, they shaped me as a man,” Dexter said.

Ed Merkling (center right) sits in front with former swimmers of his after the recognition dinner at Primo Banquet Hall on Aug. 7. Merkling has coached more than 500 athletes in his 19-year career.
Photo by Lauren Cox

Dexter was state champion in the 50-yard freestyle, winning with 20.47 seconds. Of the lessons he learned, the biggest one was about confidence.

“That lesson would be to trust in yourself and in all of the work you put in,” Dexter said.

After going off to Northwestern, for college, and learning different coaching strategies, Dexter came back with his own flair of coaching.

“We (Ed and I) would sit down and actually talk about what he wants to see and how I can incorporate that,” Dexter said. “With our combined knowledge of different things, he let me coach.”

At a packed Primo Banquet Hall, many former athletes, coaches, parents of swimmers, attended the recognition dinner. One of those coaches, Jeremy Tidd, who now coaches at Danville middle school, remembers Merkling as a mentor and great friend.

Merkling.

“When I started coaching at Decatur Central, I remember his team walking into our meets,” Tidd said. “He commanded respect from his team and that is something that I have admired about him.”

After his tenure at DC, Tidd was chosen by Merkling to be his assistant coach.

“I saw it as a great opportunity to learn from someone that has been around the sport a long time,” Tidd said, “and was obviously very knowledgeable and successful.”

After the recognition dinner, Tidd said he was amazed to see the amount of people that showed up. Tidd said Merkling was a great guy to work with.

“He doesn’t ask for anything back, except your hard work and dedication and your commitment to the team,” Tidd said.

Merkling will still be a part of the swimming world. He is the Director of the IUPUI Natatorium. A new coach of Roncalli swimming and diving was named. Curtis Cox, a former swimmer of Merkling’s, will coach. Cox will continue the tradition of excellence as Merkling has started.