The best words to describe what Joan Ryan has done throughout her life is………..”Ground breaking.” She is an award-winning journalist and author of five books. Joan has been a pioneer in sports journalism, becoming one of the first female sports columnists in the country. She has covered every major sporting event from the Super Bowl and the World Series to the Olympics.
Joan overcame the challenges of being a female in a male dominated world. She notes “I was competitive, so the more hassle I got, the more determined I got.” She started her career as a sports reporter for the Orlando Sentinel, then became an editor and eventually the first female sports columnist.
Carl talks with Joan about making the transition from decades in sports journalism to becoming a book author and writing for herself. It’s no surprise that her first book, Little Girls in Pretty Boxes: The Making and Breaking of the 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. The book and Joan were featured on Oprah, The Today Show, The New Yorker, New York Times and People Magazine among others.
Three successful books later, Joan again tried something new. Realizing that there was no one really “telling the story” of the then (2008) struggling SF Giants team, she set out to create a media consulting position for herself as an “in-house” journalist—a new concept at the time. She had lunch with CEO Larry Baer… and the rest is history.
Joan’s long experience in clubhouses and locker rooms and then with the SF Giants team made her realize that successful teams, in any type of organization, cannot only be driven by analytics, but that culture makes the difference. It's not an either/or question. “Culture is the bedrock of team chemistry and high performance,” she says. So you know what happened next. Joan’s latest book, Intangibles: Unlocking the Science and Soul of Team Chemistry (Little Brown, 2020), is out now.
Advice on career changes and life from Joan Ryan:
1. “Ask yourself, how can I apply this skill set that I worked so hard for to something new?”
2. “Anytime you pitch a new idea to someone, you better connect the dots on how it’s going to put money in their pocket.”
3. “It’s essential to find your new tribe, whether it’s a new organization, golf, etc. You have to get out there. Do not isolate. We need connection, we are social beings.”
For the full interview, listen to I Used to be Somebody, Episode #4 with Joan Ryan. For listening details go to our website.
To learn more about Joan's work check out her website.
Diana Landau is the Content Wrangler for Pickleball Media. After 15 years in corporate marketing, in 2012 she pivoted to write and wrangle content for Niche Media's weekly blog. She now manages the I Used to Be Somebody weekly blog.