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November 16, 2023 35 mins

Makenzie and Aria Fischer set NCAA records while building a water polo dynasty at Stanford. They simultaneously led Team USA to Olympic gold. 

Host Jon Frankel talks to the sisters about learning the sport from their dad, Erich Fischer, a fellow Olympian, and uncovers the secrets behind their legendary success.

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Episode Transcript

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Speaker 1 (00:02):
In the game of life, Maintaining a healthy lifestyle and
nurturing meaningful connections with family can be among the most
formidable challenges we face.

Speaker 2 (00:11):
Now we have a great relationship and we're super close,
but it's never fun to be beat by anyone when
you're a competitive person. But it's especially not fun to
be beat by your younger sister.

Speaker 1 (00:21):
Yet for many professional athletes, fostering both has proven to
be a triumphant recipe for success.

Speaker 3 (00:28):
There's just so much joy in watching your kids thrive,
and what they accomplished through every level was just it
was kind of mind boggling for us.

Speaker 1 (00:36):
I'm John Frankel. For the past two decades, I've traveled
the globe covering some of the most impactful human interest
stories and sports. On this show, I'm sitting down with
some of the biggest families in the game, the legends,
current superstars, and the up and coming playmakers to understand what's.

Speaker 4 (00:54):
Really making them tick.

Speaker 1 (00:55):
What can pro athlete families teach a new generation about
the importance of caring for your health and finding success
in the face of adversity.

Speaker 4 (01:03):
Together, we'll hear.

Speaker 1 (01:04):
Stories of their remarkable comebacks, setbacks, and the crucial role
their family and self care played in their paths to
championship glory.

Speaker 4 (01:13):
This is part of the game.

Speaker 1 (01:18):
Water polo is considered one of the most physically demanding
sports on Earth, and with good reason. The agility, endurance,
and strength needed to compete at a high level in
water polo is off the charts. Aria and Mackenzie Fisher
know full well how tough it can be. The sisters
from Laguna Beach, California are two of the most accomplished
players in the history of the sport, each having.

Speaker 4 (01:40):
Won Olympic gold medals playing for Team.

Speaker 1 (01:42):
USA and also multiple national championships at Stanford well the
American Funds counting Down the Clock too, a gold medal
performance by the USA.

Speaker 4 (01:54):
The sisters learned their sport at home.

Speaker 1 (01:56):
Their father, Eric Fisher, led Stanford's men's water polo team
to consecutive national titles in the eighties. Their mother, Leslie Fisher,
also played the sport at Stanford. It would seem success
at water polo was inevitable for the Fisher siblings, but
make no mistake, they put in the work.

Speaker 3 (02:14):
Honestly, within the first year they were playing, I could
tell that they were going to be pretty good.

Speaker 1 (02:19):
The sport brought all three closer together, as Eric used
his experience to guide his girls as they reached the
pinnacle of water polo. At Stanford and at the international level.
They were teammates but also pushing each other.

Speaker 5 (02:32):
I think it was a natural draw to want to
be like him and to play water polo and go
to the Olympics. But I would say more than anything,
I was chasing the Kenzie throughout most of my childhood.
It was definitely more of like a younger sister chasing
the older sister situation and just wanting to be like her,
but also wanting to be as good as her.

Speaker 1 (02:53):
The lessons learned in and out of the pool paid
off for Ari and Mackenzie Fisher in ways that extend
far beyond a Lilympic medals and collegiate success. Thank you
everybody for joining us. We are pleased to have the
Fisher sisters. Aria Mackenzie very accomplished, perhaps two of the
most accomplished water polo players in the history of the sport.

(03:16):
And we know that the apple doesn't fall far from
the tree, and we'll play on the pun of the
Stanford tree. For those who don't know that the tree
is the mascot even though they are called the cardinal.
And by that I mean that mom and dad were
also water polo players and dad Eric is with us,
so thank you for joining us.

Speaker 4 (03:35):
But I want to start with you, Eric.

Speaker 1 (03:38):
Given the background of being in the water, I assume
that you wanted your kids.

Speaker 4 (03:43):
To at least be comfortable in the water.

Speaker 1 (03:45):
So did that involve at a young age just throwing
them in the pool and seeing if they would sink
or swim or.

Speaker 4 (03:51):
Were their formal lessons?

Speaker 3 (03:55):
There were form lessons, but it was a goal for
Leslie and I to make sure the were comfortable in
the water. A because we liked doing a lot of
water sports and b we lived in Laguna Beach and
going to the beach in the ocean is a popular
thing for families to do and you want your kids
to be safe. Did not personally teach them how to swim.
We used people who do that for a living and

(04:16):
have the right disposition to do that in a good
way and keep them happy.

Speaker 1 (04:21):
As a fellow parent, I understand that completely. Did you
want them to swim or did you want them to
play water polo?

Speaker 4 (04:28):
Specifically?

Speaker 3 (04:30):
We wanted them to play a sport. I didn't have
ambitions for them necessary to play water polo. I was
thinking it would be fun for them, But you know,
it's one of those sports that you kind of have
to fall in love with and have a passion for
because it's not an easy thing to start off in.
It's kind of frustrating, and it's not for everybody. And
so it wasn't a water polo or only thing, that's
for sure.

Speaker 1 (04:50):
There was not a master plan here between marrying a
woman who also plays water polo and we're going to
breed children who play water pole.

Speaker 3 (05:00):
No, that would be pretty presumptuous. But we did want
them to be athletes, you know, just because the value
and the lessons and that camaraderie and that teamwork and discipline,
all those great things just from sport itself.

Speaker 1 (05:14):
Why don't you guys tell me what water polo is
like if you had to look at the rest of
the landscape of sports, give me the combination of the
sports that water polo encompasses.

Speaker 2 (05:27):
Yeah, I think that how we normally describe it is
it's basically basketball in the water with soccer goals, and
then you'll throw a little bit of wrestling in. I
think those are the three sports I would or even
I guess handball to European handball. It's pretty similar to that.

Speaker 4 (05:44):
Eric, what makes a good water polo player.

Speaker 3 (05:48):
Well, you gotta be tough or else After the first
practice or two you're just going to take your suit
and go home because it is physical and sometimes it's
a little shocking to people. You have to be able
to process things quickly. You have to see what's happening
in the game and understand patterns and make quick adjustments.
So it's a thinking person's game too, so you have

(06:08):
to be able to think. Obviously, you have to be
a good swimmer, and coordination is important throwing the ball,
passing the ball, you know, trying to get a shot
off while someone's holding and grabbing you. So physical strength
is very important, and I think that's that mental toughness
is really the thing that keeps you going.

Speaker 1 (06:25):
Ario, When did you recognize that you might actually be
pretty good at this game?

Speaker 5 (06:30):
What I've always been good at is the mental side
of it. I make a lot of jokes about how
I'm not as athletic as Mackenzie, and I still stand
by that and not saying she's not mentally tough. But
what I've always had to do is be super mentally tough,
be super determined, and honestly, like my dad said, I
just didn't really take no for an answer throughout my
career and ever since, like I recognized that and myself

(06:54):
and had that kind of nurtured by my dad. I
knew I could succeed in the sport because I knew
I to work harder than people, be more determined than people,
and kind of just outlast people in the sport.

Speaker 4 (07:06):
You were best suited for which position you played.

Speaker 5 (07:10):
I played center, so that's kind of the position where
you get drowned, and you know, it's the most physical
position in the sport in my opinion. Mackenzie will have
a different opinion because she so yeah, but yeah, the position,
it's like a basketball center where I'm in the center
of the pool and then everyone else is around me

(07:31):
and they're trying to get the ball to my side
where I have position, and I'm essentially wrestling, like actually
wrestling in the water, trying to hold position in front
of the cage. And then when I do get positioned,
the ball is tossed in to me essentially, and then
I have someone on my back like a backpack, and
I have to try to score with that person on
my back.

Speaker 4 (07:51):
Mackenzie, your position is.

Speaker 2 (07:53):
What center defender. My position is to guard the people
like Aria, so the centers to make sure that they're
not scoring Aria.

Speaker 1 (08:01):
Mackenzie, do you remember the first time that you played
a competitive game of water polo. It's not like you
stumble around pools and see six year olds picking up
a game of water polo.

Speaker 4 (08:11):
Yeah.

Speaker 5 (08:12):
I kind of got tossed in by accident. I was
at this tournament watching McKenzie play with the twelve numbers,
and I was eight, and one of the girls got
injured and they physically needed another person to be in
the water, and so I just got tossed in. And
I don't really remember much about that game, but I survived.

Speaker 3 (08:29):
So Oh, you were chomping at the bit to jump
in and play. She was. She was suited up, waiting
on the sideline, probably hoping for someone to go out.
She was so eager to play water polo. So I'll
backtrack a little bit. The timing thing wasn't necessarily for
McKenzie as far as swimming. It was to keep Aria
starting water polo too early. Because she just kept wanting

(08:49):
to play, and we kept I really didn't want them
to start too early because a lot of sports could
start so early and they burn out so quickly, so
I really wanted them to start much later. Mc Kenzie
started at ten. I had this time that Aria needed
to hit before I could consider her to play water pool,
just to kind of keep her at bay a little bit,
but she finally broke the time, and so at nine

(09:09):
years old is when she first played.

Speaker 1 (09:15):
Mackenzie, how much did you know about your dad's success
in the pool?

Speaker 2 (09:21):
Yeah, I think I knew that he was an Olympian,
and I knew that was cool and something that other
people thought were really cool. But I think that kind
of everyone grows up just saying their dad is just
this ordinary person. So it didn't feel that crazy to
me until I started to get a little bit older
and realize how hard it is actually to achieve what
he achieved. And you know, he has all his Olympian
buddies that he's always hanging out with, so it just

(09:42):
seemed like, you know, everyone's an Olympian, at.

Speaker 1 (09:46):
Least in your family. Three Olympians. Yeah, all Rio and Mackenzie.
You're certainly not the only siblings to compete in a sport.
It doesn't always happen that they each the elite level
that you guys have. But Aria, did you feel this
competitive drive that was being passed down from your dad

(10:10):
to your older sister, and that this was something you
had no choice but to take up and be good
at it.

Speaker 5 (10:16):
It was a natural draw to want to be like
my dad in to play water polo and go to
the Olympics. But I would say more than anything, I
was chasing McKenzie throughout most of my childhood onto probably
too late in my life, being competitive with her, and
so it was definitely more of like a younger sister
chasing the older sister situation and just wanting to be

(10:37):
like her, but also wanting to be as good as her.

Speaker 1 (10:40):
Mackenzie, did you feel that? Did you feel her in
your wake? And lots of sisters don't want their kid's
sister hanging around and being friends with all their friends.

Speaker 4 (10:50):
Did that play into this relationship?

Speaker 2 (10:54):
Oh yeah, one hundred percent. When I was younger, I
think it was definitely a little bit more contentious, just
because I wanted to have my own thing, my own friends, do,
my own thing. And you know, Ari was always nipping
at my heels and she was really good, so she
was always playing up as well. And so even though
you know, age groups are really delineated by to your
age gaps, which is what Ari and I are, so

(11:14):
technically we shouldn't really be playing with her, she was
always right there, right behind me. And you know, it's
never fun to be beat by anyone when you're a
competitive person, but it's especially not fun to be beat
by your younger sister.

Speaker 1 (11:26):
Were you scared of that that she would actually not
only keep up but surpass you in the pool?

Speaker 2 (11:31):
Oh yeah, one hundred percent. And as we got older,
we kind of started playing opposite positions as well. And
when I say older, I mean like high school age.
So now we have a great relationship and we're super close,
and I think that sport contributed to that a lot,
especially as we got more mature and realized, oh, this
is actually pretty cool that we get to do this together.
But early days in high school, when she was a

(11:51):
center and I was a defender, anytime she would score
on me or get me ejected, I would be so
freaking mad. So yeah, no, it was definitely frustrating. Whis
really good too. So it happened quite a bit.

Speaker 4 (12:03):
Aria.

Speaker 1 (12:03):
Were there fights outside the pool when you took your
bags and you went home. Was they're yelling and screaming
at one another for upping one another?

Speaker 5 (12:12):
Yeah, I think that eventually we just banned talking about
water polo because it did get a little sometimes we
would take it home with us from the pool, And
I think in general, the sport of water polo is
like it's not objective at all, Like it's a very
subjective sport in terms of like what's legal and what
is not legal. So it's very easy to like go
down that path of like I'm right, you're wrong, especially

(12:32):
when your sisters.

Speaker 3 (12:33):
Yeah, the banding happened at the dinner table.

Speaker 1 (12:36):
Was that your rule, Eric, did you lay down the law?

Speaker 3 (12:38):
Yeah, we'd naturally talk about this, and most of the
conversations were actually pretty fun. But there was a period
of time where the dinner conversations, when they were going
at each other, it just became ridiculous. So we said,
all right, we're just not going to be talking about
water pole at the dinner table anymore. But because exactly
what they're describing, you know, you did this, I didn't
do that.

Speaker 4 (12:56):
You were faking.

Speaker 3 (12:56):
No, that was ridiculous.

Speaker 6 (12:58):
Yeah, I got that a lot.

Speaker 1 (13:00):
Eric, you pointed out very definitively that you did not
teach them to swim. You left that to the professionals, correct,
But when it came to then learning water polos specifically,
you then stepped into the role as coach.

Speaker 4 (13:13):
Is that right?

Speaker 3 (13:15):
Yeah, that's correct. That was something that I was pretty
passionate about. For me, it was really important because I
could teach them at early age the fundamentals and the
things that I felt we're going to lay a foundation
for them to be successful in the sport should they
enjoy it and want to continue and have a passion
for playing it.

Speaker 1 (13:33):
Aria and Mackenzie were quick studies. They started playing at
the club level before joining the team at Laguna Beach
High School. Mackenzie, the older sister, joined the US national
team at the age of sixteen.

Speaker 4 (13:45):
Aria was not far behind. And Eric, when did you see.

Speaker 1 (13:50):
That Mackenzie and Aria had real potential and they could
take this sport and go someplace with it.

Speaker 3 (13:57):
Honestly, within the first year they were playing, I could
tell that they were going to be pretty good. They
were really good at ten hund and twelve and they're
leading their teams, but fourteen hunderd they just they put
so much space between themselves and the other players they're
playing against. And I think that's when that is actually
is when mackenzie started getting noticed by the national team staff.

Speaker 1 (14:17):
When you say they separated from the pack, does that
mean that they were essentially unstoppable when it comes to scoring?

Speaker 4 (14:24):
Is that where they stood out?

Speaker 3 (14:26):
Yeah, I mean I would say they were dominating, especially
on the scoring side of things. So before it was
they were scoring a couple of goals a game, but
then it was started to be like five six goals
a game and kind of like consistently through like a
big tournament where we're playing the best teams you know,
in the country, and that that's when I was like, wow, okay,
their runway to take the sport to a high level

(14:47):
is pretty clear.

Speaker 1 (14:51):
Reaching the Olympics is the ultimate goal for many athletes,
especially in sports like water polo, which don't have lucrative
professional leagues to pursue.

Speaker 4 (14:59):
The Fisher sisters climbing that mountain top came very early.

Speaker 1 (15:03):
Aria and McKenzie won the first of their two Olympic
gold medals at the twenty sixteen Rio Games before either
was old enough to legally drink. It was impactful in
many ways for Eric Fisher, who'd gotten so close in
his Olympic moment in nineteen ninety two. Eric, given that
you didn't win a medal at the ninety two Olympics

(15:25):
in Barcelona and finished fourth, did you have any words
of advice for mackenzie and Aria when they went off
to play in their first games in twenty sixteen in Barcelona,
other than you better come home with a medal.

Speaker 3 (15:38):
I mean, the only thing I think that I might
have talked about, That's what I've talked about with some
other people who have gone there, is that you know,
you really need to just kind of try and relax,
especially in that first game, because some people think, oh,
you got to get pumped up and fired up. I
think it's the opposite when you're at the Olympics for
the first time, because there's so much adrenaline run through
your body and so much excitement that you actually need

(16:00):
to calm yourself down so you can you burn out
in the first three minutes of the game, but just
trying to relax and enjoy the moment. I think maybe
the other thing is talking about, hey, you leave it
all out in the pool. At the end of the day,
you're a winner no matter what.

Speaker 4 (16:14):
You know.

Speaker 3 (16:14):
That's what your job is is just to do everything
you can to help your team win and be successful,
and if you do that, you're going to win no
matter what the ultimate result is.

Speaker 2 (16:25):
When we were growing up, we could see the pain
that he felt from getting forth in his Olympic games
and how much he wanted that final game back. What
was imparted in me from a young age and what
continued throughout my entire career was making sure that you're
putting everything into the game, into the pool, so that
when the game does end, and if it didn't go
in your favor, at least you can be confident that

(16:46):
everything that you did was at your full effort and
that there's not anything you're wishing for.

Speaker 1 (16:51):
Back joining this national team as a sixteen year old,
and I would assume that there's lots of turns in
twists in order for you to get there. Was not
an easy, straight linear shot to join that national team
at age sixteen, was it?

Speaker 4 (17:12):
No?

Speaker 2 (17:13):
Not necessarily. I mean, I think for both of us
we made a lot of the early youth national teams,
but I certainly was not expecting to be invited to
join and train with the actual senior national team. So
I think for me, once I joined the senior national team,
that's where more of the adversity came in terms of
like trying to prove myself to all these older, really established,
really famous players in the water polo world and the US.

(17:35):
The difference between high school water pol and college water
polo was just pretty drastic in my opinion, So I
hadn't had that experience, so I think that that was
probably the hardest part for me, and just gaining respect.
You know, any sixteen year old that walks on a
team with thirty year olds, I think reasonably so they're
going to look at you and be like, h I
don't know, We'll see what you can do. I mean,

(17:55):
they're all super kind obviously, but gaining that respect is
another thing.

Speaker 1 (18:02):
When we return after winning gold at the Olympics, what
was it like for the Fishers to return to campus.

Speaker 6 (18:09):
Yeah, I think at times it was hard.

Speaker 5 (18:11):
During those two years that we took off for Tokyo,
committed pretty much everything to you one singular goal, which
is to become an Olympian again and to win another
gold medal, and then you do it and it's great,
and then you're like, okay, what now.

Speaker 4 (18:26):
Part of the game. We'll be right back and now
back to part of the game.

Speaker 1 (18:38):
Aria and Mackenzie Fisher both followed in their parents' footsteps
and went to Stanford, where they had an immediate impact.
The sisters won three national championships with the cardinal Mackenzie
is the driver, Aria playing two meter the center forward position.
They both won the Katino Award, given to the top
water polo player in the country, and by the time
their college careers ended, Aria was the school's fifth all

(19:01):
time leading score. Number one was her sister Mackenzie. So
you win Olympic gold medals before you enroll at Stanford?

Speaker 4 (19:11):
Correct? Yep?

Speaker 5 (19:12):
Yes, I went back to high school after Rio, so
I still had a year left at high school.

Speaker 1 (19:18):
And not that you're the first to do that, but
what's that like to go back to Laguna Beach High
School with a gold medal in your pocket or around
your neck.

Speaker 6 (19:26):
It was a little bit weird.

Speaker 5 (19:27):
I was a little bit of a nerd, so I
definitely got more attention after I brought my Olympic gold
medal back. But I would say going back to high
school water polo was an adjustment because if international water
polo is the most physical and most aggressive, high school
water polo is the least. And so I definitely had
to tone my game back down because I was, you know,

(19:49):
the big international center coming back to a high school game.
So it was definitely a little bit of an adjustment
coming back, but it was super fun because I got
to be a leader in a way that I got
to learn learn from my US teammates, my US captains,
and kind of bring that back to my high school team.

Speaker 1 (20:05):
So you win these gold medals, you go back to
high school. Mackenzie, you're ready to enroll. Mom and dad
have gone to Stanford. Is it a foregone conclusion that
you were going to go to Stanford.

Speaker 2 (20:18):
I think in the back of my mind, I probably
always was going to go to Stanford. I mean, I
think it's just the perfect combination of both academics and athletics,
and for our family as well, academics was also hugely important.
But I think for a period of time I actually
did consider going to UCLA just because my best friends
on the national team all went to UCLA, But I
think when it actually came down to making the decision,

(20:40):
Stanford was pretty much the only thing I was considering.

Speaker 4 (20:43):
Aria.

Speaker 1 (20:43):
I assume you wanted to continue to play with your sister,
so it was just natural that you would follow her
to Stanford.

Speaker 6 (20:49):
Yeah, I'm not going to lie.

Speaker 5 (20:50):
I pretended like I was considering other schools, but I
really wasn't. I wanted to continue to play water poolo
with Mackenzie, so I knew that if I got into STANFD,
that's where I would go.

Speaker 1 (21:01):
Just to talk a little bit about what you accomplished
at Stanford, not only did you win national titles, but
you each won the Katino Award, which is given to
the best water polo player in the country. That's got
to feel pretty darn good to be recognized on that
level that your Stanford career was not exactly an afterthought
to what you accomplished in the pool on the international stage.

Speaker 4 (21:23):
It was still pretty darn good.

Speaker 2 (21:25):
Oh yeah, and playing college is an entirely different game
and any unique experience on its own, But I think
Ari and I both had fun, you know, kind of
taking on an entirely different role on that team and
then stepping back into national team and playing an entirely
different role in that.

Speaker 1 (21:37):
Aria because you and Mackenzie both took some time off.
Was it hard to sort of re enter each time
to come back to Stanford and join in with your
teammates there.

Speaker 5 (21:49):
Yeah, I think at times it was hard. During those
two years that we took off for Tokyo, committed pretty
much everything to you know, one singular goal, which is
to become an Olympian again, to win another gold medal,
and then you do it and it's great, and then
you're like, okay, what now. I'll speak for myself. Going
back to Stanford as someone who should have already graduated,

(22:10):
you feel old. You are going back into a team
that you don't really know because it's been two years.
So it's a little disorienting at first. But I think
part of the reason I kept on doing it and
loved the Stanford experience was because of my teammates there
and because of the community that it provides there. You know,
obviously because my sister was on the team and that

(22:31):
was really important to me playing with her, but also because, yeah,
your teammates will pick you up on a bad day
in or out of the pool and be there for you,
and that's something that's so irreplaceable about sports and about
water polo.

Speaker 1 (22:44):
The outsider might say, well, oh, come on, it's pretty
obvious that this is what Mackenzie and Aria would do.
Mom and dad played, they played at such a high level.
And they might say that about so many family dynamics
where sons and daughters have followed their parents into professional sports.
But it just isn't that easy. It's not just about

(23:04):
the DNA.

Speaker 6 (23:05):
Is it.

Speaker 3 (23:05):
No, it's not to me. I'm all about the passion
and desire. If you have a passion and desire for
something and it's unrelenting, you can take that a long way.
You don't need an Olympian as a parent.

Speaker 1 (23:18):
Do you ever marvel at what's been accomplished by Mackenzie
and Aria and pinch yourself and sort of maybe you're
a little bit surprised given how difficult it is to
reach the peak of a sport.

Speaker 3 (23:31):
The amount of winning that they have done is absolutely
as sounding and mind boggling. And yeah, I mean, just
talking to it right now, I'm getting goosebumps just remembering
all those achievements. It is unbelievable for me. They've just
crushed it.

Speaker 1 (23:47):
The Fisher sisters have stepped out of the competitive end
of the pool and put an end to their record
setting careers. Aria is now pursuing a screenwriting career, while
Mackenzie is in the process of getting a.

Speaker 4 (23:58):
Master's in mechanical engineering Stanford.

Speaker 1 (24:01):
But as the twenty twenty four Paris Olympics approach, would
they have second thoughts about retiring as you both are?
Do we use the R word? Do we say retired?

Speaker 2 (24:14):
Yeah, we say retired.

Speaker 4 (24:15):
You're young, aren't you? Guys? Like? Why are you done?

Speaker 1 (24:20):
I've seen ads for Paris twenty twenty four. Why aren't
you getting back in the pool and giving it one
more shot and going for a third gold medal?

Speaker 4 (24:28):
Yeah?

Speaker 5 (24:29):
And that's that's honestly the question I get the most,
like why are you quitting while you're maybe at the
top of your physical fitness. But I think for me,
my happiness will always be first for myself, and I
think that knowing when to move on is really important.
And I think for me, I just wasn't as in
love with water polo anymore as I was when I

(24:51):
was sixteen, And I think doing another Olympics would have,
you know, been kind of a grind in an unnecessarily
harmful way, and so so I think that I knew
that I really wanted to explore my other passions in life.
And that's the beautiful thing about going to Stanford is
I majored in creative writing and fell in love with writing,
and so I really wanted to pursue to screenwriting, and

(25:14):
taking that leap was a little bit difficult, but I
knew that I would be happier moving on.

Speaker 1 (25:21):
McKenzie, you feel as comfortable having stepped away from the pool, Yeah, I.

Speaker 2 (25:25):
Think it very similarly to Aria. I just had so
many other things that I was really excited about doing,
and I kind of knew for a while that my
senior year at Stanford would be the last year I
played water pool. So I think I was very at
peace with that decision for a pretty long time. I
also just wanted to be a normal person in the
sense that you know, have free weekends, go visit friends,
go camping or backpacking. If I wanted to just have

(25:46):
a lot more flexibility and kind of ownership of my
time is really what I was looking for, because playing
water polo at the international level is a huge time commitment,
so I think just exploring what else the world had
to offer is what I was really excited.

Speaker 1 (25:59):
About, given the family's involvement and passion for water polo,
the way so many other families get together on Thanksgiving
and play a turkey bowl in a little pickup football game.
When Mackenzie and Aria start missing it on Thanksgivings, will
that be the Fisher way? You know, find a local
pool and hop in and play a family game of
water polo on Thanksgiving.

Speaker 6 (26:22):
I would love that. That would be bad for him.

Speaker 3 (26:24):
That would not be good for me.

Speaker 4 (26:26):
You know.

Speaker 3 (26:26):
I used to get in the water with the girls
and play and do swim sets with them, and you know,
obviously when they're young, I could pretty much trounce them.
But they got to the point where they started really
started to beat me in everything. So we're not going
to do the pool, but we will get on the
pick a ball court. That's where we get our family
competitive energy.

Speaker 4 (26:44):
It always comes back to pickleball today.

Speaker 5 (26:47):
Yeah, yeah, seriously, swept America.

Speaker 4 (26:50):
Swept America.

Speaker 1 (26:53):
Eric. If you're not in the pool at least competitively
or even recreationally with your daughters, how do you stay
in shit?

Speaker 4 (27:00):
Today?

Speaker 3 (27:01):
I've consistently stayed in the pool. So I swim, I
do go to the gym st and love to hike
surf a little bit. And then now we've started playing pickleball,
and probably play a little too much pickleball for my
joints and elevated age status, but it keeps me going.

Speaker 6 (27:19):
And also you long bowled. Don't forget the lawn bowling.

Speaker 2 (27:22):
True.

Speaker 1 (27:22):
Wow, Wow, you're really throwing you under the bus now.

Speaker 3 (27:26):
They really love the lawn bowling thing. They like to
throw that out there.

Speaker 1 (27:29):
It's funny you mentioned joints and how you maybe now
are paying the price for it on pickleball. I was
going to say that, no matter how physical water polo
may have been in your day, particularly on the international level,
that by virtue of being in the water, your body
is probably in pretty good shape, even as an elite
athlete at this age, because you weren't taking the impact

(27:50):
that other athletes were.

Speaker 3 (27:52):
Yeah, you've read that correctly. I think for the most part,
it's pretty benign on your body long term. The only
thing exception is maybe like hips, you just have so
much weight being pushed on you and the angle on
your hips, so hips is the only thing that I
think kind of turns into a little bit of a
longer term liability. But other than that, it's pretty benign
sport as far as keeping you in good shape to

(28:12):
be mobile for a long long time.

Speaker 1 (28:13):
Afterwards, when you swim at great lengths, you've burned through
the calories, so you can generally eat a lot.

Speaker 4 (28:20):
Have you had to change your diet over the years.

Speaker 3 (28:23):
I have largely not had to change my diet, I
think because I've got some genetics that are pretty pretty
helpful there. My mom is this lean, mean fighting machine,
and I seem to have picked up that gene from them.
There's a certain group in our family that are just long,
tall and skinny. I do eat better than I did
when I was younger, that's for sure, but doesn't seem

(28:44):
to be out of necessity.

Speaker 1 (28:45):
We talked to your dad a little bit about conditioning
and the transitioning from the pool to a life without
being quite as intense. What have each of you done
differently now that you're not in the pool six days
a week working off all these calories and such.

Speaker 4 (29:02):
Have you changed your diet at this point? Mackenzie?

Speaker 2 (29:06):
Yeah, so I think I took about a year off
of no exercising, and then realized that that probably wasn't
the most sustainable thing in the planet. So for the
last three months, I've been doing yoga, I've been running
a little bit. I'm naturally pretty outdoorsy, so I consider
that exercise as well. I'm always camping or hiking or

(29:26):
trying to rock climb, emphasis on trying, but yeah, just
trying to move my body a little bit more. And
then from a die perspective, even in the pool, that's
never really been a focus of mine. And I really
enjoy eating the things that I want to eat and
plan on continuing to do that. And I think, kind
of like my dad said, I think I'm naturally blessed
a little bit from the genes standpoint, where luckily I

(29:47):
haven't really had to worry about that that much. But
I've exercised for three months in a row now, so
I think I think we're trending positively.

Speaker 1 (29:56):
Ariya, you're in London, you're studying, You're pursuing a screenwriting career.
Are you swimming, are you running, are you lifting? Are
you hoverboarding?

Speaker 4 (30:06):
I don't know.

Speaker 5 (30:07):
I'm actually looking to get into lawn bowling, but I
can't find any good clubs over here, so maybe my
dad can hook me.

Speaker 3 (30:14):
Up with that, but it's a lot of good clubs
over there.

Speaker 5 (30:17):
I exercise, honestly mostly now for my mental health more
than anything. It's always been a super big like release
for me in terms of that. So I've been running,
I've been doing some pilates, some yoga as well. I
think I'm going to join a gym as well over here.
And as far as eating goes, I think athletics place
is an over emphasis on like what we eat and

(30:38):
clean eating in general, and I think that honestly, like Mackenzie,
I just intuitively eat. I just eat what I want
when I want, and I think that's super healthy.

Speaker 1 (30:49):
Give me one thing that you will take from the
pool that you know will serve you the rest of
your life.

Speaker 5 (30:57):
My relationship with Mackenzie, we got so much closer, and
I think that sisterly bond of having to go through
really tough times and really hard moments and also having
the highest of highs at the same time, of winning
two Olympic gold medals together, of winning a bunch of
national championships together, of being there through all those moments,
that's something that the game has given.

Speaker 1 (31:18):
Me, McKenzie, one thing you'll take from the pool that
will serve you through the rest of your life.

Speaker 2 (31:24):
Follow that, Yeah, this is kind and I don't want
to be redundant. So obviously my relationship with Aria, but
I also think my relationship with my teammates. Some of
my closest friends were made on national team and knowing
how to work on a team with other people from
different backgrounds, different beliefs is something that you're kind of
forced to do on teams and something that will continue

(31:46):
to show up later in life.

Speaker 1 (31:47):
Dad, you have the perspective of time, the rear view mirror.
What was the one thing that you got out of
the pool that you've been able to count on through
the course of your life.

Speaker 3 (31:59):
For me, it's the discipline of doing something that's hard,
that you may not want to do it, and even
if you're not doing it well in that particular day,
you come back the next day. So that's for me.
It's kind of the takeaway as an athlete, as a parent,
kind of the pride and joy of watching what Mackenzie
and are you have accomplished and they far exceeded anything

(32:20):
I've ever done, and I couldn't be happier.

Speaker 1 (32:24):
Eric, I'll ask you this first, which is what does
the heart of the game mean to you? When you
think about water polo, When you think about competitive athletics,
it's such an elite level. What does the heart of
the game mean to you?

Speaker 3 (32:38):
Oh my gosh, I think the heart of the game
from a competitive standpoint, I think it's it's a couple
of things. You've got to have that competitive fire, passion.
If you don't have passion for what you're doing, you know,
you're just not going to be able to sustain that
the input that you have to do to be successful.
And then honestly, you have to have some opportunity so

(33:01):
you can be a great athlete that's fired up and
determined and loves the game and super competitive. But if
you don't get that opportunity to make your mark, may
not happen for you, may not get to the level
you want. So I think those three things really kind
of encompass the heart of competition for me.

Speaker 2 (33:18):
Mackenzie, this is a hard question, but I think if
I had to pick one word, it would it would
definitely be grit. I think waterpoolo is a gritty, unglamorous
sport at times, and it really oftentimes comes down to
just who wants it more, who's going to put in
more effort, And then also just like selflessness and being
a good teammate.

Speaker 4 (33:36):
Aria part of the game.

Speaker 5 (33:38):
It's great, it's passion, it's determination, it's opportunity, but it's
also everything that comes with athletics, which is the community
and the opportunity where athletics takes.

Speaker 6 (33:48):
You, essentially, whether it's to the Olympics.

Speaker 5 (33:50):
Or to college, and the impact it has on the
world in general is something that's almost immeasurable.

Speaker 1 (33:59):
Every parent of seeing their children succeed in something they love.
Eric Fisher was able to watch his Mackenzie and Aria
learn the sport that taught him so much and achieved
success beyond his wildest expectations at the Olympics and at Stanford.
They may be done chasing championships, but the Fisher family
water polo dynasty will live on. On the next episode

(34:21):
of Heart of the Game, we'll hear from volleyball powerhouses
Logan and Shay Eggleston on the pressure of being a
student athlete and keeping up with your mental health.

Speaker 7 (34:32):
There's so many mental things that come along with being
an athlete. If you want to play, you have to
make sure you're eligible and that you're performing well in
the classroom. But then on top of that, you also
need to make sure you're taking care of yourself as
a person and as a human being.

Speaker 1 (34:46):
Part of the Game is a production of Ruby's Studio
from iHeartMedia. Our show is hosted by me John Frankl.
Our executive producer is Matt Romano. Our EP of Post
production is Matt Stillo. Supervising producer is Nikia Swinton. This
show was edited by Sierra Spreen. Our writer and researcher
is Mike Avla.

Speaker 4 (35:07):
Thanks for listening. We'll see you next time.
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