Saturday, March 06, 2021

Intangibles by Joan Ryan

Intangibles by Joan Ryan is a solid book subtitled Unlocking the Science and Soul of Team Chemistry.

Ryan worked as a sports columnist in San Francisco and then as a media consultant with the Giants and the book centers around team chemistry in baseball. She makes the point that baseball would seem to be the sport where team chemistry the least important as the players are each completing tasks on their own, but there’s some fascinating stories she tells about team chemistry in the sport. Featured are the Giants of the late 1980s led by Roger Craig, with Mike Krukow, Dave Dravecky, Kevin Mitchell, and Will Clark, as well as later Giants teams with Barry Bonds and Jeff Kent.

In terms of the relationship with a coach, Los Angeles Dodgers manager Dave Roberts is quoted as saying that players want to know three things about someone: Does he care about me? Can I trust him? Can he make me better? These ideas also are applicable to relationships between players. Ryan writes extensively about the bond that comes from having the back of your teammates, a principle that applies to soliders in combat, of course on a much more important level. Also, players will be more likely to come together and have team chemistry if they feel they’re a part of something important or in something together.  Also noted is oxytocin, which is released from the brain when someone has good feelings about something, and that people need to feel trusted and valued to have a team working effectively. 

Ryan writes as well about different personality types on a team, and how there's different types both needed and that can work together effectively. The best for team chemistry are super-carriers, with baseball nomad Jonny Gomes cited as an example of someone who actively cared about his teammates. There's also super-disruptors, and it's interesting to read of how Ryan describes Giants superstar Barry Bonds as not one. He wasn’t a great teammate in the super-carrier sense, but he performed on the field and his fairly aloof behavior didn’t negatively impact the team. Jeff Kent is cited as his teammate who was the same way, they weren’t personable with each other or their other teammates, but they both wanted to win, produced individually, and had each other's back when needed. The worst is the complainer looking for recruits. The second worst is the malingerer, the person who always needs to rest or is mildly hurt, not sacrificing. Seven archetypes that Ryan notes are the sparkplug, the sage, the kid, the enforcer, the buddy, the warrior, and the jester. Also, Warriors star Steph Curry is mentioned the rare super-carrier who has all seven archetypes.