On ‘Nobody Asks’ Podcast, Two Swimmers Dare to Dig Deep

Aryanna Fernandez; Photo Courtesy: Ross Obley; Florida State Athletics

On ‘Nobody Asks’ Podcast, Two Swimmers Dare to Dig Deep

Aryanna Fernandez and Mya Falcon had the conversation that many a young person has pondered during the COVID-19 pandemic. During one of the friends’ FaceTime sessions, when their conversations turned to matters of swimming and its many offshoot subjects, Falcon just went out and said it. Hey, what about turning these conversations a podcast?

COVER ART FINALThe product is “Nobody Asks,” a podcast where the swimmers share their journeys growing up as athletes and bring on guests that can shed light on the many dimensions of that experience. The podcast, in the middle of its second season, is not shy about digging into deep topics like, “The F Word (Failure)” and “Success Is Not a Personality Trait.”

Both women are long-time swimmers. Fernandes is a redshirt junior at Florida State University. She started her college career at Utah, continued to excel as in Tallahassee and placed in the top seven at two events at Canadian Olympic Trials last summer. She grew swam at some of the same clubs in her native Ontario as Falcon, who captained Team Ontario at the 2017 Canada Games. Injuries cut Falcon’s career short before college.

Both started their careers long ago at Ajax Swim Club and were teammates at Ontario Swimming Academy. They developed a friendship that now crosses borders and has shared their experience with listeners.

The Nobody Asks hosts sat down for an interview with Swimming World where they discussed how the project came about and their aspirations for the future.

Swimming World: So to start out, what was the thought process behind starting a podcast?

Mya Falcon: I just kind of texted Aryanna one day and was like, do you want to start a podcast? I think when my swimming career ended, I feel like I was really lacking something in my life, because swimming was my thing. And I thought what better way to maybe share experiences with something that I know pretty well, which is sports, with someone I did swimming with in Aryanna. I thought it would be a great place to make a safe platform for athletes to share their stories, but also our stories as well.

Aryanna Fernandes: I remember getting the text from Mya one day, and I was like, yeah for sure. I think it was maybe the next week, she sent me a picture of these mics that she bought and I was like, ‘oh wait you’re serious? OK.’ So we started brainstorming ideas and trying to think of a name, so the name Nobody Asks, we wanted to ask questions that nobody asks. We wanted to think about things like mental health, like physical health that can really hinder that. We know going through our journeys as athletes, those were things that were not often talked about, so we wanted to have these conversations with people we know and even starting this podcast, some of our guests, they’re close friends of ours and hearing their stories, we’ve heard it firsthand but having them share their stories is also a great thing, too. They’re talking about things like their mental health and it’s not an easy thing to open up about. It’s exactly what Mya said – making this safe space, giving people a platform if they don’t already have it to talk about these things that aren’t often talked about.

To build on that, how do you distill that Nobody Asks sensibilities into the ethos of the podcast?

Mya and Aryanna

Aryanna Fernandes, left, and Mya Falcon, hosts of the podcast Nobody Asks; Photo Courtesy: Nobody Asks podcast

MF: We try to our best to do a good job of highlighting the athlete’s success but also maybe things that aren’t often talked about in their post-game, post-race interviews. And I think with Brittany MacLean, we talked about being a retired athlete and how you’re kind of just left off to fend for yourself once you’re a retired athlete. So we wanted to incorporate the things that could be a heavier subject or no one really teaches you to deal with, being a retired athlete or mental health and stuff like that. I think overall, we just want to highlight things that often aren’t talked about. We want to make sure that these are normal things that other people experience and that they’re not alone in any of it.

It seems like some of the podcasts, especially during the height of the pandemic, kind of functioned as a therapy session. Is that the way it felt sometimes and how important was that as an active athlete?

AF:  We did start this podcast pretty much at the height of the pandemic, and this time last year, I was at home training in Canada, and training in Canada was very hard to do. They had a lot of different protocols and they were coming out with different exemption lists that allowed certain people to train and certain people not to train – I was fortunate enough to be able to train solely because of Canadian Olympic Trials. And that kept getting pushed, kept getting pushed, and while it was being pushed, we were doing more podcast episodes and we were brainstorming more ideas and we were talking with other athletes who were facing similar struggles that I was, not being able to swim or being out of the pool because someone got contact-traced. It was just nice to talk to other people, and it’s one of those things we always talk about on the podcast, you’ll never know until you ask someone how they’re doing. Talking to other athletes, they were going through the exact same thing that I was going through. Not having any competitions was obviously hard for everyone, so talking to other people, asking them, ‘well how did you get through this training cycle? How are you still pushing because it’s very hard, it’s very repetitive?’ And just kind of normalizing those feelings as well because at least for me, I felt really down on myself at one point because it was December, and I was like, we should be at a taper meet right now and we’re still training, we’re still stuck in the same training cycle, and I’m getting really frustrated and I don’t want to make it seem like I’m not grateful for training because I am, but it’s also very frustrating being an athlete and not having all these competitions, but also normalizing that feeling because not many people were talking about it, like ‘oh yeah I’m so grateful to train but I hate it.’

Mya, since you’re not swimming any more, does the podcast have a role in helping you process the transition to post-swimming life?

MF: I have my own episode coming out this week where I dive a little deeper into my whole journey with swimming and everything that happened, unfortunately and fortunately I guess. It’s been really helpful for me just because it’s allowed me to have a voice, and I know we’re not the No. 1 podcast on iTunes or on Spotify, but it gives me a voice and it allows m to share with other people but also hear from other people to know that I’m not the only one. It’s really repaired my relationship with swimming I think because I’ve been able to see that it’s not all smooth going for all athletes. Every athlete has something going on that we have no idea about.

Is there a favorite show that you’ve done so far or one that sticks with you in particular?

Mya Florida

Mya Falcon; Photo Courtesy: Nobody Asks

AF: I think maybe I’m a little biased but growing up, Brittany MacLean was always a name that I knew, and we never swam the same events – I never really swam distance (freestyle). But growing up in Toronto, that’s the name that you knew. Everyone knew her name. And I remember telling Mya, ‘we should reach out to her. Maybe she won’t respond; maybe she will, you never know.’ And I never really had that connection with Brittany until I reached out to her and was like, ‘hey we don’t know if you would want to but we’d love to have you on the podcast.’ So having her on the podcast was amazing just because I feel like everyone knew her name growing up, and everyone knew her success. But personally, I never really knew about her struggles with mental health until we talked about it on our podcast – I knew briefly doing some background information on her prior to the podcast episode, but it was interesting to hear her perspective on it as a collegiate athlete, as a professional athlete, and now what she’s doing and still being involved in sports, I just loved hearing her talk and I loved having that conversation with her personally.

MF: I think the Josh Liendo one was a really good one for me just because Josh and I are really close outside of swimming and everything like that, so it was really good to see obviously all his success that he’s been going through. But also just the support it takes, I really wanted to highlight that in his episode, the support it takes for an athlete to succeed. It’s not just the athlete, but there’s so much more behind the athlete that really goes into it. And also the one with my dad, where we talked about my journey a little bit, we talked about coaching and how being an athlete and coaching really coincide and how you can have an effect on a sport as an athlete but also as a coach.

Is there a dream Nobody Asks guest?

MF: There’s a lot of Canadian swimmers that we would love to have on.

AF: But also not even just swimmers. If we could have (former Toronto Raptors guard) Kyle Lowry on the podcast, oh my gosh, that would be amazing.

MF: We’re pretty big basketball fans, but there’s a lot of Canadian athletes that we would love to have. But I think one we’ve talked about is Kyle Lowry, and also Penny Oleksiak.

You can find Nobody Asks on Spotify, iTunes, Google Podcasts, or the podcast app of your choice, or follow them on Instagram.