BOZEMAN — For former University of Michigan basketball player Austin Hatch, his journey is like none other. He has experienced one of life’s worst tragedies twice.
In September of 2003, Hatch was involved in a plane crash that killed his mother, his sister and his brother. He and his father, the pilot, lived.
Then, nearly eight years later in June of 2011, after committing to play basketball for the Wolverines, Hatch was flying with his father and stepmother to their cabin in Michigan, and the unthinkable happened: a second plane crash. Hatch was the only one to survive. He was in a coma, with broken collar bones, fractured ribs, and holes his lungs. He battled in the hospital, built himself back up and ended up playing in college for the Big Blue.
That journey brought him to Bozeman to help with a basketball camp for Live the List.
“I think what this organization does, you know, helping people do things that people couldn’t necessarily do for themselves, I think it’s really powerful,” said Hatch.
Live the List, based in Bozeman, helps widows and widowers achieve their dreams after their losses by taking them on trips around the world to places like Thailand or helping them go back to school. Co-founder Michelle Steinke-Baumgard has a special connection with Hatch. Her husband, Mitch, was killed in a plane crash in 2009.
“I think one thing when you go through any type of loss, you lose hope and showing people that there is hope for happiness, it’s going to look differently than you planned, but there is still hope for happiness and steps forward in your life. You just have to be brave enough to take those steps, so we give them a little nudge,” said Steinke-Baumgard.
“All the spouses, the widows and widowers here, I know that their spouse would’ve wanted them to keep living and I know that’s what my family would’ve wanted me to do, too, and that’s what I’m doing every single day. You know, get out of your comfort zone, push the limits a little bit, that’s the only way to grow, the only way to get better,” said Hatch.
With the help of former Montana State head basketball coach Brad Huse, Live the List held a camp to benefit the organization and brought Hatch in to speak to campers. He had one simple message that ties his life story with sports that every athlete should listen to.
“The metaphor I’ll use is after a tough first half of a game, say you’re down 10 points, you don’t just go shake the other teams’ hands and say, ‘Good game.’ You got the second half, right? You come back out in the second half with new energy and with new passion and bring everything you got in the second half. And so I think that you need to carry over that same mentality into other areas of your life, too, whether it be sports or school, business, family, marriage, whatever it may be. So, even if things aren’t going as well as you’d like right now, there’s no reason you can’t come back in the second half with a new energy and commitment,” Hatch said.
Hatch said he’s only had two bad days in his life, and he wants young athletes here in Montana to focus on two things: living every day to the fullest and never quitting.
“Enjoy the journey first and foremost, that’s something my dad always told me. It’s easy to get caught up in who’s getting attention, who’s getting recruited, am I playing enough? We all face adversity of different kinds every single day. And I faced some pretty serious stuff, but adversity is adversity to me and how we respond to it is so important,” Hatch said.