Joan Ryan

in Conversation with Phil Cousineau

Recorded May 23rd, 2020

Share this event

Find the books at Book Passage

Log in or register to watch the archive.

Joan Ryan in conversation with Phil Cousineau
Saturday, May 23, 2020

Share this with someone who loves books.

Joan Ryan is an award-winning journalist and author. Her latest release Intangibles: Unlocking the Science and Soul of Team Chemistry, answers some of the most intriguing questions about performance and human relationships: Is team chemistry real? If so, what exactly is it? How does it affect output? How is it cultivated?

Molina: The Story of the Father Who Raised an Unlikely Baseball Dynasty, was a New York Times bestseller. The Water Giver: The Story of a Mother, a Son and Their Second Chance, was published in September 2009.

Joan was a pioneer in sports journalism, becoming one of the first female sports columnists in the country. She covered every major sporting event from the Super Bowl and the World Series to the Olympics and championship fights. Her sports columns and features earned 13 Associated Press Sports Editors Awards, the National Headliner Award and the Women’s Sports Foundation’s Journalism Award, among other honors. She has been awarded the Fabulous Feminist Award by the San Francisco chapter of the National Organization for Women and was named A Woman Who Could Be President by the San Francisco League of Women Voters.

Her newspaper work spans 25 years, the last 22 in San Francisco. When she left sports, she wrote columns for the Style section, the Op-Ed pages and the Metro section. She left the San Francisco Chronicle in 2007 to pursue book projects and other opportunities.

Joan is a founding board member of Coaching Corps, a non-profit organization that taps into the power of sports to help low-income youth learn and grow. She is a frequent commentator and speaker on, among other topics, children’s and family issues, girls’ and women’s sports, juvenile justice and education. She has taught writing at San Francisco State and UC-Berkeley’s Graduate School of Journalism.

Joan was born in the Bronx and grew up in New Jersey until age 12. Her family of eight—her parents, three brothers and two sisters—moved to South Florida, where Joan attended middle school, high school and college. She earned a degree in journalism from the University Florida in 1981. Three days later, she began work as a copy editor at The Orlando Sentinel. She became the first woman in the paper’s sports department when she transferred in as a copy editor less than two years later. She then covered the University of Central Florida’s football and basketball teams for a year while writing occasional features and columns.

In 1985, she moved to San Francisco in as a full-time sports columnist for the San Francisco Examiner. She was hired by the Chronicle in 1994.

Joan lives in Marin County, north of San Francisco, with her husband, Boxing Hall of Fame sportscaster Barry Tompkins. They have one son, Ryan.

Motherhood is about raising and celebrating the child you have, not the child you thought you would have. It’s about understanding that he is exactly the person he is supposed to be. And that, if you’re lucky, he just might be the teacher who turns you into the person you are supposed to be.”

– The Water Giver: The Story of a Mother, a Son, and Their Second Chance

Nearly ten years in the making, Joan’s latest release, Intangibles: Unlocking the Science and Soul of Team Chemistry, answers some of the most intriguing questions about performance and human relationships: Is team chemistry real? If so, what exactly is it? How does it affect output? How is it cultivated?

Weaving cutting-edge research in sociology, psychology, and neuroscience, with page-turning storytelling, Joan takes us on a fascinating and wide-ranging investigation that spans from Oracle Park in San Francisco —where an improbable group of players were transformed into a World Series-winning dynasty—to the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta, where coach Tara VanDerveer brought a struggling USA Women’s basketball team back from the brink. Along the way we are presented with a definitive model of how team chemistry works, one that boldly argues that the phenomenon is not a gimmick, but is, in fact, an innate human construct with a single function: to elevate performance.

Her book Molina: The Story of the Father Who Raised an Unlikely Baseball Dynasty tells the story of Major-League Baseball star Bengie Molina’s father, who through baseball taught his three sons about loyalty, humility, courage and the true meaning of success. Bengie and his two brothers — Jose and six-time St. Louis Cardinals’ All-Star Yadier — became Major League catchers and have six World Series Championships among them. Only the DiMaggio brothers can rival the Molinas as the most accomplished siblings in baseball history.

The Water Giver: The Story of a Mother, a Son and Their Second Chance, tells the story of how Joan’s son’s near-fatal accident, and his struggle to become whole again, gave her a second chance to become the mother she had always wished she could be.

Her first book, Little Girls in Pretty Boxes: The Making and Breaking of Elite Gymnasts and Figure Skaters (1995, Doubleday) was a controversial, ground-breaking expose that Sports Illustrated named one of the Top 100 Sports Books of All Time. It was one of the Top 50 Sports Books of All Time in the Guardian newspaper in London. The Sporting News chose it as one of the top three sports books of 1995.

Visit the Book Passage website to have any of Joan’s books delivered right to your door.

You’re sure to enjoy these Book Passage favorites:

Intangibles: Unlocking the Science and Soul of Team Chemistry

1b

Molina: The Story of the Father Who Raised an Unlikely Baseball Dynasty

2b

Little Girls in Pretty Boxes: The Making and Breaking of Elite Gymnasts and Figure Skaters

Little Girls in Pretty Boxes: The Making and Breaking of Elite Gymnasts and Figure Skaters

Get ready to join Ryan in conversation, Joan, May 23rd.

In the meantime, we invite you to take a moment now to help shape this upcoming conversation.

Check out the list of questions submitted by other registered attendees, and then vote to support any that match your interests.

Feel free to add your own question. Then spread the word to make sure others have the chance to help move your question to the top of the shared list.

  • 10

    votes

    How much of what you cite in your book as “chemistry” is culturally based? Do you think, for example, that the same factors come into play in Japan, or Brazil, that impact teams and team performance in the United States?

  • 9

    votes

    Who are some of your favorite authors, whether fiction or non-fiction, and have they influenced your writing?

  • 7

    votes

    Is chemistry at work really like chemistry in sports?

  • 6

    votes

    If you were running MLB right now, how would you get the season re-started?

  • 5

    votes

    Does gender impact the significance or presentation of chemistry in sports/sports teams? In other words, how does an all women’s team differ in it’s presentation of chemistry than a men’s team?

  • 5

    votes

    Are there certain team sports where chemistry plays a more significant role than others?

  • 5

    votes

    What do you think of the Michael Jordan documentary? And what does Jordan and the Bulls’ success during that period tell you about team chemistry?

  • 2

    votes

    Could you share with us the genesis of your sportswriting career? Tell us about the path that led to you being one of the first female sports columnists in the country. Have enjoyed your writing and commentary for years.

  • 1

    votes

    Why is team chemistry important in baseball?

  • 1

    votes

    Have you ever personally experienced “team chemistry” and if so tell us about that situation

  • 1

    votes

    Do you believe the world of elite competitive gymnastics has changed for the better since you wrote your outstanding book, “Little Girls in Pretty Boxes?”

  • 1

    votes

    Do you think that the concept portrayed in the movie Moneyball is a realistic method to build a team?

  • 0

    votes

    Hey Joan, Congratulations! Curious your thoughts on other male writers, like Malcolm Gladwell, who also deny the role of chemistry, the idea of being in a zone. Is this a guy thing, do you think? (I quickly add that most sports writers don’t agree with Lewis or Malcolm…)

  • 0

    votes

    What can team leaders do to help create or support team chemistry?

  • 0

    votes

    I’ve enjoyed your work immensely, going back to your columns in the SF Examiner. I’ve long admired your husband’s work as well. How much input does Barry provide with your writings if any, and specifically around the subjects you choose to write on in your books?

  • 0

    votes

    How can we bring this team spirit out into the world for positive change?

  • 0

    votes

    Speaking of intangibles, what do you think of affect of fans on team chemistry and achievement. And what do you think of Major League Baseball’s or the NBA’s plan to host games without fans? -Michael Shapiro