Always help the kids, a seemingly simplified, but the utmost of all pursuits personified by one man who at the end of this school year, will formally hang up his whistle one last time after a storied coaching career that has spanned an incredible 50 years. Dennis Markiewicz, the long-time baseball and assistant football coach at Garfield Heights High School will be retiring at the end of the 2021-2022 school year after five decades as a coach at various schools in Northeast Ohio. And while the needs of student-athletes and the dynamics of their interpersonal relationships to the sports themselves have evolved over that time, one thing has remained constant for Coach Markiewicz, and that is the belief that one never stops mentoring the kids, and that we should all aspire to help them in every way possible.
Coach Dennis Markiewicz accomplished the noble endeavor to always help the kids he coached, and this is his story. The ranks of student-athletes who over the many years remain in touch with him to this day, some married and some even whose children he now coaches, are the living testament to the impact that Coach Markiewicz has had on young men in Garfield Heights, and throughout Northeast Ohio, since the early 1970s.
His coaching career was shaped by personal successes as a student-athlete himself. He grew up in Cleveland on Warner Road, then moved to the Newburgh Heights neighborhood south of Cleveland, and graduated from the original Holy Name High School, where he played football and baseball. He received some great football lessons from the older kids on Warner Road, and then life lessons, from his father Tony when growing up in the old neighborhood. Dennis then earned a scholarship to Cuyahoga Community College, where he played for Coach Ron Moss and was a member of one of the top pitching staff in the entire country.
Coach Markiewicz began his coaching career during the fall of 1972 as an assistant football coach at Cleveland South High School. Nearby to his own alma mater, which was a few blocks north, Dennis felt comfortable latching on to a program with families of familiar backgrounds and upbringings to instruct a sport he loved. He credits legendary South High Football Coach Fred Oblak as having been instrumental in his early development as a coach. “Coach Oblak mentored me in the early days with his sharp mind and his desire to help underprivileged kids,” says Coach Markiewicz. “Beyond the x’s and o’s of the sport, he showed me the powerful role a coach can have in the life of a young student-athlete.” Coach Markiewicz found joy in the job of coaching young men, elevating to the role of defensive coordinator, and soon realizing that’s what he wanted to do for a career. He was hired as a Truant Attendance Officer at South High, helping to ensure students were attending class and showing up to school, where he made a big difference. He also spent time as a pitching coach for the Flyers as well. Coach Oblak saw Coach Markiewicz’s natural feel for working with the students and encouraged him to obtain his 4-year degree from Cleveland State University, which he earned while coaching, working full-time, and holding down father and husband duties.
After more than 20 years at Cleveland South High School, former Garfield Heights Athletic Director and fellow Holy Name alumnus Kevin Hartman recruited Coach Markiewicz to become a Bulldog. While at Garfield Heights High School, Coach Markiewicz came into his own, serving as Head Coach for the Varsity Baseball Team between 1995 and 2011. During those 16 years as coach, he would amass an impressive 201 wins, 6 Lake Erie League conference championships, finished conference runner up three times, 4 sectional championships, and qualified for the district championship 4 times. All of this came as part of one of the most competitive big-school conferences and districts in all of Northeast Ohio. He served as the Registrar and Investigator for the District from 1995 until 2014. In addition, Coach Markiewicz even had the distinct opportunity to have his son, Anthony, play for him in 2001. In addition to daughter Kelly, who graduated from GHHS in 1995, and Coach has been able to include his entire family in his endeavors to help the kids over the years.
This has most especially included his wife, Karen, together who have been married for 48 years this coming May, and who he met during his days at South High School. “She supported me every step of the way, all those long nights of coaching,” continued Coach Markiewicz about his beloved bride. “She believed in and shared in the purpose of helping kids.”
Upon retiring from baseball at Garfield Heights High in 2011, he was recruited to return as a coach at his alma mater, Holy Name, where he led the Green Wave to 4 regional appearances and one state runner-up appearance. He has spent the last 4 seasons as an assistant baseball coach in the Beachwood City Schools.
All the while, he has also helped the Garfield Heights High School football staff as a freshman coach over the years. Out of 25 years coaching freshman football, he has amassed an impressive 8 conference titles. The relationships with his coaches, including Dale Krzynowek, Bill Svoboda, Anthony Grau, and son Anthony, over the last 15 years in coaching freshman football, have further enhanced the experience.
The coaching accolades of Dennis Markiewicz speak for themselves, but what Coach will remember most are the life lessons learned from his father and instilled in his student-athletes that they remembered. “You know Mr. Markiewicz, you saved my marriage,” recalls Coach about a conversation he had with a former player. “Some lessons shared in a post-game locker room speech stayed with him for many years about perseverance and dedication.” This is the higher calling to which Coach Markiewicz always aspired. On another occasion, Coach and his wife Karen learned that one of his players was homeless, without food, fresh clothes, and other basic necessities. “When you search your soul, you know that helping kids when they need us most was my real calling,” he continues. “We’re put in a position to help, and you do so to the best of your ability.”
Everyone’s got a purpose, and for Coach Markiewicz, it’s been helping kids on and off the field. “God wants us to lead purposeful lives, and this is what I was supposed to do,” says Coach Markiewicz. Student-athletes at Garfield Heights High School, Cleveland South High School, Holy Name, and Beachwood High Schools are better off for the role Coach Markiewicz has played in their lives for five decades. And while retirement looms in the balance for Coach Markiewicz, somehow, we all know that he’ll continue finding ways for him and his family… to help the kids.
All the best to you, Coach Markiewicz. Thank you for your service!