Mike Ciesco’s Life Intertwined with the Game of Football. By John Torsiello
Even though he is only 28 years old, much of Torrington’s Mike Ciesco’s life has been wrapped up with playing and coaching the game of football.
After starting out 18 years ago in the Torrington Pop Warner program, Ciesco is now coaching the seventh grade Torrington Youth Football League team after mentoring them as sixth graders in 2011.
“I started out playing quarterback and never looked back,” he said of his formative days in the game he loves so dearly. “From 1995 to 1997 our team made it to three straight Conference championship games and won in 1996. Experiencing success at that level really got my love of the game going.”
He went on to play four years for Torrington High School and started at quarterback for the Raiders beginning his junior season.
“Those four years of high school football were the most enjoyable of my career. Senior year I could not ask for a more memorable season. We had a close knit senior class and, yeah, maybe a 6-4 record doesn’t jump off the page at you. But it was the first winning season for THS football since 1984. It concluded with a Thanksgiving Day game that came down to the final drive for a comeback win.”
After high school he got an opportunity to post grad at the Berkshire School. Along for the ride was his high school fullback Brian Becker. Berkshire went undefeated during the regular season and lost a tight game in the New England Prep School championships. Thinking his playing days were over, Ciesco got a chance to play at Endicott College in Beverly, Ma.
“Endicott was just starting their football program my freshmen season. To be part of the first class at the school was very special. I played quarterback my freshman and sophomore seasons then moved to receiver my last two.”
After college ended Ciesco knew he could not put the pigskin away for good.
“I really wanted to get my feet wet in coaching. I joined the staff at Simsbury High School coached by Gilbert School alumni Jeff Osborne. I was the varsity quarterback coach. We installed the triple option at the school and in 2008 and 2009 made it to the state playoffs.”
In the spring of 2011, Ciesco’s mother was battling liver cancer and was not doing well. He made a decision to put the spring football and the next season on hold and not coach.
“I clearly remember my mom saying she didn’t want me to stop coaching. My mom had never missed a game and was there for every ride to and from practice. She was my biggest fan. Her words and advice to continue coaching really hit me. So I decided that coaching at the youth level with my brother Bruce was the next best idea. It’s been the greatest decision I ever made.”
Ciesco’s mom passed away in July of 2011 and he decided to dedicate every football season to her. He also cited as influences his father, Gary Ciesco, who was his youth coach, his brother Bruce, and former THS coach Bruce Kasenetz.
“My father taught me the work ethic to make it in the sport. My brother Bruce is four years older than me, so watching him in high school and college really opened my eyes to the game and all his advice he would give stuck with me. Coach Kasenetz’s family and our family were best friends growing up, so as a little kid I would hang around the locker room, coaches’ office and field, seeing what it took to build a successful football program.”
Ciesco said one of the attractions of football for him is the camaraderie of a team.
“In high school and college you are with your teammates for four years and the bonds and friendships you create last forever. There is also nothing better than playing on a Friday night under the lights. I love mentally preparing for a game, walking out of that locker room and seeing all the fans.”
Ciesco loves working with young kids.
“Coaching at the youth level challenges you. A majority of these kids never played or have very little experience. As a coach you are challenged to break down every aspect of the game and you truly learn a lot about yourself as a coach. To see these young kids go out there and perform on game day, execute what you taught them during the week, is so much fun. I wouldn’t trade it for the world.”
While laughing that he’s “going gray at 28,” Ciesco said he’s having “an absolute blast” coaching. “Yes it is difficult because you so much want the kids to succeed out there but sometimes they come up short. As a coach you have to step back and realize how hard they are working and know that their time will come.”
He quipped, “My father helped out my brother and I last year with the sixth graders, so you had three Ciescos with egos on one field. The dinner talks got a little loud at times. As I said, my mother has been the greatest influence in my life and I know she is proud of my brother and I and what we are doing with these young kids.”
Things have changed somewhat since he began playing the game, but then again they are still kids hanging out with their buddies playing a sport.
“I think the number one difference is the distractions out there today. But for the most part I see these kids having as much fun as I and my friends had playing the game at their age.”
As for his coaching philosophy, he explained, “I feel every player that plays under me will become a better person first, and a football player second. I strongly believe kids need to find out at an early age the value of teamwork. It isn’t more evident than in the game of football. If we can instill that at this level then when they get older they will succeed in all aspects of life.”
Ciesco will continue to coach this current 7th grade team as 8th graders next fall. He would love to get back to high school with a freshmen program and begin a journey of being a head coach of a high school team.