Austin Hatch

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My story is one of tragedy, incomprehensible loss and triumph. On Labor Day of 2003, my family and I were flying from northern Michigan to Ft. Wayne, Indiana. As we were preparing to land, the aircraft crashed and burst into flames. My dad threw me out of the plane to save my life. He went back into the flames to get my mom, Julie, my sister, Lindsay, and brother, Ian, but tragically, was unable to. My mom, sister and brother did not survive.


My dad and I grieved the loss of our family members but we found ways to keep living in the midst of the incomprehensible pain. We pushed each other to overcome, as we knew my mom, sister and brother would’ve wanted.


Eventually, my dad met a lovely woman named Kimberley, who had three kids of her own. They got married and together, we formed a wonderful blended family. Meanwhile, I worked hard on my basketball skills and began to have success on the court. My dream was to play for The University of Michigan. On June 15, 2011, Coach Beilein offered me a full scholarship to play basketball for The University of Michigan, which I accepted. It was a dream come true.


Nine days later, on June 24th, 2011, my father and “second mother” were flying to Northern Michigan to have a weekend of celebration. As we were preparing to land, the aircraft crashed, and my dad and second mom were killed on impact. I suffered severe injuries and was nearly killed myself. After being in a coma for over two months, I had to relearn how to walk, talk and basically how to live my life. With the help of many incredible doctors, therapists, my family and friends, I made a great comeback to take the place at The University of Michigan that coach Beilein held open for me.


Ten years later, I am a graduate of The University of Michigan and am a full time motivational speaker with a message about Grit & Thriving in the midst of adversity. I consider myself blessed to be in a position to add value to organizations across the country.


My message is about my journey from a coma, to a wheelchair to playing for Michigan. Yes a lot of things had to happen to Overcome It and achieve my goal, but more than anything, it took some Grit. A lot of people have talked about Grit recently; it seems like a good trait for both people and for organizations to possess. It has been said that Grit is working hard for a long period of time. Grit is about consistency over the long term, not just intensity in the short term. That’s true, but how can we apply Grit to daily our lives? How can we use this idea to help us, not merely survive adversity, but thrive in the midst of adversity? How can we use Grit to help us achieve any goal we set for ourselves and for our organizations? I believe the following definition applies to, not only overcoming adversity, but to accomplishing any goal, as well.


I believe that part of the reason I survived two plane crashes, endured tragic losses and made a great recovery, is to help others. I have been sharing my story and message about Grit & Thriving in the midst of adversity to inspire others to overcome the adversity they are facing. We all face challenges every day, and I believe that it is my purpose to help others find ways to thrive in the midst of them.

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