SCHENECTADY — With the Curry College men’s Division III hockey season canceled last season because of the novel coronavirus pandemic, Colonels head coach TJ Manastersky needed something to do to occupy his time and keep his mind sharp.
Manastersky decided to dip his skates into the social media world. He started the website tjmanastersky.com, which features links to a blog, his “Coaching Project” podcast, a newsletter and a YouTube channel.
Manastersky was named the new Union College men’s hockey assistant coach by head coach Rick Bennett on June 1. He replaces Jason Tapp, who left the program after the 2019-20 season to join Dartmouth.
“You can use social media as a tool,” Manastersky said during a recent interview with The Daily Gazette. “What I found is that it’s also a great way to learn. What sort of started for me getting into some of that media stuff was when the pandemic hit. I always had these thoughts of maybe I’ll do a podcast, and I’ve always enjoyed writing. I was an English major in college [at SUNY Oswego]. I had a little bit more time on my hands a year and a half ago when the pandemic really hit.”
As he progressed with social media, Manastersky discovered a few things about himself.
“So I started really small. I thought, ‘Hey, this would be something fun to do,’” Manastersky said “My first few interviews were with some friends of mine. I wrote a couple of things. I found that a few amazing things came out of it. One was I was learning a lot. When you write a story, you have to bring a lot of clarity to whatever that thought is. It really forces you to drill down to what your thoughts are and your philosophies. You have this idea bouncing around in your head when you have to put it down on paper and then endeavor to share it with people in the public space, you have to give some thought to that and bring some clarity to it.
“With the podcast, you get to have very interesting conversations with interesting people and learn. Those were the things that came out that were outstanding.”
Another aspect Manastersky discovered about social media that surprised him were the relationships he developed.
“The people that I know now through various spider web of connections and offshoots from doing this stuff has been really remarkable. I’ve enjoyed that,” Manastersky said. “And it’s also helped me in recruiting back when I was at Curry College.”
Manastersky hopes to balance his time on social media with his responsibilities at Union.
“As life returns to more normal and your schedule becomes full with the other things that are your job, then your time is a little bit tighter,” Manastersky said, “I’ve also learned through some of the technology some things can be automated and you can be a little more efficient. I have no idea where it’s going. I envision that I’ll continue in some shape and form. I’ve really enjoyed the newsletter aspect of it once a month, putting something out to people that have subscribed and just building communities and relationships with people has been a lot of fun.”
Bennett is impressed with Manastersky’s social media presence.
“I think it is important,” Bennett said. “I think it’s obviously here. It’s upon us. It is the thing of the future. Having TJ teaching us stuff, some new tricks, I think that’s [good].”
Manastersky was 28 when he took over at Curry in 2012-13. He spent nine seasons as the head coach of Curry. He compiled a 113-82-19 record. The Colonels reached berths in all four Commonwealth Coast Conference (CCC) Tournaments (they joined the conference in 2016-17 after playing in the ECAC Northeast), and seven postseason appearances in eight seasons overall. Manastersky was named CCC Coach of the Year in 2018-19, when he guided the Colonels to a 16-7-3 record, which included a 13-2-1 mark in the final 16 games of the regular season.
This wasn’t the first time Manastersky applied for a position at Union. Bennett said Manastersky sent his resume back in 2011 after Bennett replaced Nate Leaman as head coach.
“I was actually cleaning out the office [recently], and his resume was right there,” Bennett said. “It was interesting. And he was very consistent, too. He reached out five years ago to come in and talk hockey. He came here, we went into the video room and talked hockey all day. I’ve always had good interactions with him and kept in touch, moreso after he came here on campus to talk shop.”
Manastersky is looking forward to his role at Union.
“The Division I thing is nice,” Manastersky said. “To work with the top players is exciting.”