Be Better; Invite highlights mental wellness in athletics

TW: This story references suicide.

On Saturday, Oct. 22, Calvin’s Venema Aquatic Center hosted The Be Better; Invite, a swim meet held in honor of late Holland Christian swimmer Ian Miskelley. The meet attracted teams from across the state who joined together to promote mental wellness.

  The Be Better; Foundation, which sponsored the meet, was created by the Miskelly family after their son, Ian, took his own life two years ago. Ian grew up in Holland and swam for Holland Christian before attending and swimming for the University of Michigan. 

  “When Ian passed, Jill and I made a promise that we would do something to make good come from this tragedy,” said Steve Miskelly, Ian’s father. “The whole idea behind Be Better; is to support, educate and guide the person needing care; but not only the person needing care, their support networks as well.”

  The Be Better; Foundation’s goal is to bridge gaps in time, care and coordination to achieve mental wellness. The Foundation “offers support groups for teens, young adults, and their support networks,” Jill Miskelley, mother of Ian, said. It also offers free consultations with an expert psychologist. On top of that, the foundation is putting together an educational series focused on relationship building.

  The Be Better; Invite featured the swim teams from Calvin University, Hope College, Davenport University and the University of Michigan. All three NCAA divisions were represented among attendees; Michigan is a DI school, Davenport is DII, and Calvin and Hope are DIII.  Many of the swimmers in attendance are former teammates of Ian Miskelley from high school and club swimming. The Invite was put together by Coach Mike Bottom from the University of Michigan and Coach Dan Gelderloos from Calvin University. 

“We are getting together and using the sport of swimming to have fun,” said Gelderloos. For Gelderloos, the meet represents an opportunity to bring attention to mental health; “[The meet] is bringing forward a good cause towards mental health and bringing an exciting event that is going to put that at the forefront,” he said. 

Gelderloos’s awareness of mental health has grown over his coaching career. Now, he views mental health as a muscle which is just as important to train as the rest of your body.  It helps an athlete’s performance in the pool as well as their “health and liveliness,” he said.

  Michigan’s head coach, Mike Bottom, also stressed the importance of mental health in sports while acknowledging the pressure that comes from competing at the collegiate level.

“We are in control of that pressure as well as we are in control of our swimming, and what we are doing on the boards. It’s really important to be centered in our hearts so that we can be excellent in all different directions,” Bottom said.

  Bottom said he was also thankful for the opportunity to have a fun meet while focusing on mental health.

  “It was a wonderful reminder of what we’re all trying to do is be better and there are so many dimensions to being better. One way is an understanding that we’re trying to be the fastest swimmers we can be and best divers we can be, and we’re trying to do it in a way that our minds can wrap around it in a positive way,” said Bottom.

In the pool, spectators were treated to many fast swims in mainly non-traditional events.  From the 5×100 free to the Mystery Individual Medley, the goal of the meet was to have fun, rather than win. As such, the meet was not scored.

Michigan swimmers stole the show in the water.  On both the men’s and women’s side, they won every event.

The Calvin team’s fastest finishes came from fifth-year student Noah Holstege, who finished second in the 50 free and third in the knockout 25’s. Sophomore Wilson Goodpasture finished second in three-meter diving. Freshman Ryan Meyer finished third in the Mystery IM and freshman Tim Hays finished third in the 4×100 IM. 

The Calvin women’s fastest finishes came from junior Isabella Gable, who finished third in the knockout 25’s, sophomore Haley Thier, who finished fourth in the 100 breaststroke and junior Maggie Farrell, who finished fourth in the 5×100 free.   

The Be Better; Invite offered a great opportunity to acknowledge mental health in athletics while providing exciting swims for swimmers and spectators alike.

If you are ever struggling with suicidal thoughts or depression, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is 988 and is available 24/7. Free consultations through the Be Better; Foundation can be reached at (616) 201-9891. Donations to the Be Better; Foundation can be made online at