Giving back to his community was always something of importance to graduate safety Trenton Hatfield. Now, he has the opportunity.
Trenton has been instrumental in helping his father, Bob Hatfield, run the Grissom Leadership Basketball League in the Muncie Community School system. The league teaches kids not only the game of basketball but life skills and other lessons.
“The focus of the league is not on winning and losing, it's a developmental league.” Bob said. “We emphasize sportsmanship, we emphasize the fundamentals of basketball, having fun, but really the primary objective is to give kids the social-emotional skills to learn how to be a part of something bigger than themselves.”
However, the Grissom Leadership League traces its roots all the way back to 1995, evolving out of another league he started from Morrison-Mock Elementary, Bob said. He developed the idea after noticing unhealthy tendencies in other programs.
“I had children that were participating in other leagues, and I just saw such a toxic environment with the competitive atmosphere, even with the kindergarten kids,” Bob said. “Don't get me wrong, I'm a very competitive person, but I think there's a time and a developmental age for that competitive nature to kick in and for kids to be exposed to it.”
He then drew out the plans for the league and built it on the basis of character development in local youth.
Around the time Trenton got to middle school, Bob had to stop doing the league due to his travels through AAU basketball. This past year, he brought it back with the same intentions as the years prior. One of the biggest reasons to restart the program was the community.
“When we decided to kind of do away with the league, there were a lot of people that were upset,” Bob said. “The league had established quite the positive reputation in the community … A lot of our families reached out to me and asked me, ‘When are you going to do the league again?”
Trenton contributed to starting the league up, as well as being an influence on Bob.
“I couldn't have done it this time around without the support and help of my son, Trenton,” Bob said. “He was very instrumental in not just encouraging me and motivating me to initiate the league again, but I mean, he did a lot of the dirty work and behind the scenes help.”
For Trenton, he said it was a pleasure. Growing up, Trenton was a part of the league, he started playing at three years old. In fact, his team developed throughout the years into the varsity basketball team at Muncie Central. They were part of the 2014 Muncie Central sectional championship team.
“It was really just an opportunity to be a part of something that [brought me] a lot of joy when I was a kid while helping out the community, a community that I have a huge passion for,” Trenton said. “I'm a kid from this community, born and raised in Muncie, so any opportunity I get that I can really give back is awesome.”
Trenton is a referee and coach for the league. He developed a bond with the kids on his team. One player struggled at times to focus on playing and would be easily frustrated. There was one weekend when Trenton couldn’t make it to coach, so Bob had to step in and fill the role. It was the hurt from Trentons absence on the kids face that let him know he was making a difference.
“Seeing him being saddened by it definitely impacted me and helped me see that even though it may have been hard and frustrating at times, it really is making a difference and impacting these kids for good,” Trenton said.
Although he grew up here in Muncie, Trenton spent the past three seasons playing for Illinois State. Once he entered the portal, he knew where he would end up.
“When the opportunity arose for me to play for my hometown, I didn’t realize how much Muncie meant to me and how great of an opportunity it really was,” Trenton said. “Just to come back and spend these last two years finishing my career at home in the place that I've always had a deep passion for, it's just nothing short of a dream come true for me honestly.”
Bob said Trenton’s return to help him out has been a great sight to see.
“It's kind of been really fun to see life's full circle kind of thing … which was really cool, and it's very rewarding,” Bob said. “As a father, as a parent, you love to see your kids, not just be successful, but make an impact and make a difference for others.”
One day in particular, Bob witnessed something special. A little boy with special needs was struggling and Trenton assisted him. Once he was close to the basket, he picked him up to let him dunk the ball.
“I love that and the smile on that kid's face … I know all the students that participate in the league, and I will tell you I've never seen that kid be more happy than that day at that moment,” Bob said. “That was pretty darn special.”
Ball State Defensive Backs coach Josh Zidenberg described Trenton as “mature and wise beyond his years.”
“He's definitely assumed a leadership role which isn't always easy, especially coming in as a grad transfer … this season, he took significant strides,” Zidenberg said. “He’s become a guy that the guys go to with questions, and [he] put himself in a position to be that type of guy for other players to feel like they can go to him and trust him.”
Looking toward the future, Bob has hopes for expansion.
“We did have some plans to push the league out to other elementary schools within the Muncie Community System. However, that's going to be a gradual process,” Trenton said. “We will be doing that next year, pushing it down to two other elementary schools, possibly three.”
The league starts in February 2023 and is expecting approximately 300 players.