BG girls hockey coach Scott Ciszek a role model as Nashua police officer
NASHUA — Scott Ciszek was behind the Bishop Guertin High School girls hockey bench, guiding the Cardinals to a tournament win over Bishop Brady-Trinity-West at Tri-Town Arena early last month.
High across the Cardinals bench, a few high school administrators were trying to watch the game, but a topic created a distracting conversation: Something called the “coronavirus.”
Little did Ciszek know how soon after that week his other job as a first responder – a Nashua police officer – would be impacted by that very thing.
“It was just a matter of time,” Ciszek said. “It was overseas, and it was eventually going to make its way here. How fast does it make it here? A day, a week, a month?
“That’s something you obviously don’t know until it starts happening. And then you can predict how fast it’s going to progress. But at that time, it hadn’t progressed too much over here, you’d just see a case here or there.”
Ciszek said he didn’t even want to think as to how long the tournament might last. His own BG team lost to Concord after a tough quarterfinal battle. A week later the tournament was suspended and then eventually cancelled.
“We just took it one game at a time,” he said. “And who knew they were going to call the tournament. At the time it still hadn’t progressed to the point where it would affect major sporting events … and they did what they had to do.”
And now Ciszek, with the high school hockey done, is immersed in an all too real world on the city streets. Ciszek went to what he called “a plethora” of calls to downtown Nashua one day, and as he said, “You can’t not respond to calls because of fear. You have to rely on your common sense and your training and the safety devices you have, you try to safeguard yourself.”
Ciszek began his law enforcement career some 17 years ago in Texas, and he started to get into hockey coaching his daughter Alyssa’s Nashua Panthers team in youth hockey that went to the nationals. He had coached girls hockey for awhile, as well as boys youth hockey (his son A.J.just finished his high school career) so six years ago he was a natural choice when the BG vacancy opened up.
“Some of the girls on the BG team then had played on my daughter’s team,” he said, mentioning players like Krista Ferrari, Amanda Giles, etc. “And unbeknownst to me a couple of them threw my name out there. Pete Paladino (BG athletic director) gave me a call and the next thing you know I’m coaching for BG.”
And now that the season is over, Ciszek is living an all too real crisis, putting his life literally on the line daily.
“You’re seeing a little bit of pandemonium setting in,” Ciszek said. “Obviously, people are out there, thinking about themselves, there’s a lot of group chats, stuff like that.
“There’s a lot of good people out there that are trying to help other people. Definitely a mixture. There’s a little bit of a hoarding problem going on.
“Stores are doing their due diligence to keep stocked. There’s truck drivers out there who are doing what they can do to keep stores stocked. The essential people are out there trying to do what they can do to help society try to stay as a whole while we’re all trying to hibernate.”
Ciszek says he’s given some PPE gear , and if there’s a location that it’s in question whether it’s a virus hotspot or not when he answers a call, “then we have special gear we can don to go in, depending on what the circumstances are.”
Ciszek said that it’s the same as protecting himself from other dangers a police officer may encounter.
“It’s just like anything else,” he said. “You always have to protect yourself. If I assume that everybody is carring a gun, then I’m always going to safeguard myself.
“If I assume that everybody is carrying a gun, then I’m always going to safeguard myself. If I assume that everybody is carrying this virus, again, I’m going to safeguard myself. It’s a state of mind thing. If you consider everyone to be (carrying the virus), that way you’re always safeguarding yourself.”
Of the calls Ciszek answers, how many would be related to the virus?
“There have been some medical calls, suspicious deaths you’re just not sure until the medical examiner comes out, either says yay or nay, or needs an autopsy to find out,” Ciszek said. “Sometimes you just don’t know.”
Ciszek says the appreciation for what he and other first responders are going to is “always split down the middle.”
“You get your people who are pro police, appreciate the job that we do, put other people’s lives ahead of our own and try to help safeguard people,” he said. “And you get your people who are against the police, and they’re usually ones who have had trouble with them.”
Ciszek sees first hand what the health care workers on the front lines are going through, but it hits close to home. His daughter Alyssa is an army nurse and was just activated. And A.J. Ciszek is scheduled to go to basic training in June. “Each going in for different reasons, bu both giving their time to better themselves and provide services to our country,” Ciszek said.
“And I see first hand,” he added, “I have a lot of friends who are first responders, whether they be firemen, police, nurses, people like that.
“You just don’t know when somebody goes into the hospital, that nurse or that doctor, is this the one that’s going to give me that disease?
“All they can do is the same thing that we do – treat everybody at this point in time like they have. Look at the symptoms, and go from there.”
Ciszek says he’s talked to his players here and there, but when he was with them at the team’s breakup dinner the night of the tourney loss to Concord, COVID-19 wasn’t discussed and really hasn’t been.
“It wasn’t an issue until it was the issue and everything got cancelled,” he said. “After we lost to Concord, the next set of games came up and just in that small turnaround, that’s when everything came to fruition.”
His season done, Ciszek says he feels for the spring athletes who, if the situation worsens, may not get a chance to take the field. Or who are currently chomping at the bit to do just that – many of whom played hockey for him.
“It’s tough all around,” he said. “When you handcuff athletes, and now you’re putting them inside, how do you keep them active? How do you keep them interested? That’s up to the parents and the teachers to try to spearhead that.
Guertin had a sports awards night via video, which Ciszek said was great, thanks to the work and creativity of athletic director Pete Paladino.
For him, the virtual world was a great break from the real world.
“Being a police officer, it certainly doesn’t define one’s life,” he said, “but it certainly gives you great guidelines and ethical and moral guidelines to help shape your life.”
Does that give him a way to handle this crisis?
“The more you have that you can relate to, everyone wants to garner experience in life,” Ciszek said. “The more experience you have, the more informed decisions you can make.”
And he’s making them on a daily basis, perhaps now being the most important ones he’s ever made.