Prep swimming

Mundts carrying on dad's name with Portage swimming

2011-06-18T22:00:00Z 2012-08-18T22:15:22Z Mundts carrying on dad's name with Portage swimmingBY JIM PETERS jim.peters@nwi.com, (219) 548-4363 nwitimes.com

Walking across the pool deck he presided over as Portage's boys swimming coach for 28 years, Ralph Mundt can't help but feel a little different.

Walking across it, knowing his sons Greg and Eric are the Indians coaches, he can't help but feel something else.

"Very proud," Mundt said, sitting in his old office. "I can't help but be."

Greg has been part of the girls program for five years, the last three as head coach. Ralph assisted him for the 2008-09 season before becoming athletic director at Calumet. Eric, who swam for his dad as brothers Greg and Nathan had, followed him on board. Last month, he was named the boys coach as the school announced that the teams will move forward in a collaborative manner, the Mundts coaching side by side.

"It was a very special moment for us," Greg said. "Sometimes, my dad's a man of few words, but he sat us both down and told us he was proud and happy. He never thought 35 years ago when he took the job that it would come to this. It's not a family-owned business, but it's like we are taking over the family business."

Such an arrangement is a coincidence considering the boys, who also teach in the same social studies curriculum that dad did, are a true blend of their father. Greg has Ralph's chiseled chin and Popeye physique, but is more cerebral as a coach. Eric looks more like his mom Bev, but is more fiery, like pops.

"It's exciting," Eric said. "I grew up in this place. I remember watching my brothers' teams, running around on deck, probably annoying everyone. We want to continue the success our dad had and the other coaches. We want to continue to grow, too."

Part of that is the familial atmosphere created at home and the pool.

"That's a tradition he put in place," Greg said. "Every year, he had alumni come back to see him. His retirement party was enormous. You're always part of the Portage swimming family, no matter the year you graduated, the era you swam in."

That tie continues to this day for Ralph. He recently met up for lunch with Andy Smith, a Portage swimmer from the mid 1980s who is working on a construction project at Calumet.

"I never lost that bond with my guys," Ralph said. "They're still my swimmers, the next year, five, 10, 20 years later. We're still there for each other. When you're part of the program, it becomes part of your life. This was a place you could come, now and forever."

Eric also learned the importance of commitment from his dad, a quality that carried over to the swimmers.

"Growing up in our family, you lived it, breathed it," he said. "I understand that's what makes you successful. This is not something you get into because of the extra pay check."

Greg credits his dad for stepping back and letting the boys find their own way, not feeling the need to add his two cents.

"We have a very open dialog," Greg said. "He's been in this business a long time and we're just getting into it. To his credit, he only offers advice when we ask for it. He's not around to make suggestions. He really trusts us. We're taking a lot of the stuff we learned as kids through him and we're still learning now."

Because of his own commitments, Ralph won't see much of his sons' work in action, save for the sectional, which Calumet and Portage share. He's confident they will not only carry on the Mundt name, but take it to greater heights.

"The challenges they face are different ones than I faced," he said. "But hopefully they'll be able to take the things they learned from me and their other coaches. They're well-versed in the business. They know what it takes. And they'll put in the time and effort."

Just like dad.

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