For more info on Coach Hatch visit GayleHatch.com.
The USA men’s weightlifting head coach at the 2004 Olympic Games, Hatch was inducted into the USA Strength and Conditioning Coaches Hall of Fame’s inaugural 14-member class in August 2003, along with Baton Rouge’s Alvin Roy; and the USA Olympic Weightlifting Federation Hall of Fame in April 2002. He received the NFL Strength & Conditioning Coaches Society “President’s Award” for his role in developing the profession at the 2005 NFL Combine. Hatch served as meet director of the 2000 USA Olympic Trials. In 2007-08, Hatch worked at LSU as basketball strength and conditioning coach after his program helped the 2006 Tigers reach the Final Four.
The Baton Rouge, LA resident has won 12 national Coach of the Year honors from USA Weightlifting. He has coached 43 national champion lifters who set numerous American and junior American records. Among his best-known athletes are 1984 USA Olympian Tommy Calandro and 1988 and 1992 USA Olympian Bret Brian. He has had athletes named to more than 50 USA teams competing internationally. Hatch also has helped shape the careers of several notable strength coaches in the college and professional sports ranks. LSU’s head strength coach, Tommy Moffitt, and Tennessee’s head strength coach, Johnny Long, both attribute their recent national football championships in part to the Hatch strength program. Hatch was a dynamic basketball player for Northwestern State in 1960-62 who was drafted to play professionally. While at Northwestern, Hatch led the Demons in scoring, rebounding and field goal percentage before he was chosen by the Chicago Majors of the American Basketball League, forerunner of the American Basketball Association which eventually merged with the NBA. Hatch set a school record in his senior year by shooting 57.7 percent in 1961-62, a mark that ranks 10th in school history some 40 years later. Hatch established a school mark for scoring with 18 field goals made in a game against a 21-4 Kentucky Wesleyan team, missing only three shots in an amazing performance. He was elected to the American Indian Athletic Hall of Fame in 2003. He is in six Halls of Fame, also included in the Catholic HS, Northwestern State athletic, Northwestern State alumni halls, and material on him was included in the Smithsonian Institute’s National Museum of the American Indian when it opened in 2005.
From Basketball Star to Strongman
by Jimmy Peyton
Coach Hatch continued his strength training after his basketball career, and he went from a strong man to a super-strong man. I was amazed when I first met him. He stood 6 feet 6 inches tall and weighted an athletic 290 pounds.
Strong-man contest such as the Scottish Highland Games were not televised back in those days, but with Coach Hatch’s height, athletic ability and freaky strength, I believe he could have won a world championship. We just didn’t know such contest existed. Olympic lifting and power lifting were the only strength sports we knew about. I saw Coach press 290 pounds for 6 reps behind the neck, and curl 4 sets of 6 with 240 pounds. I watched him do full good mornings with 400 pounds for 5 reps with ease. Coach Hatch also did a pinch grip exercise with the old York 45 pound plates smooth side out for 5 to 10 seconds. I saw him dead lift 855 pounds out of the power rack with the pins set so that the plates were 3 inches off the floor. I also saw Coach bench press 450 pounds 6 times with a fractured bone in his forearm. He didn’t flinch, and he didn’t say a word after he finished the set except to get on our butts for standing around watching him. “Get back to work,” he said and we hopped to it. That made it hard to tell a man like that you had a nagging injury. If you were hurt that was one thing, but nagging injuries you worked around them. I saw him pick up 300 pounds that a lifter missed on a jerk off the rack and do a forearm curl and re-rack the weight like nothing. Bob McCarron, a current master lifter and I just stood there and looked at each other in amazement. Coach didn’t say a word.
Coach Hatch was also undefeated in arm wrestling. He actually had competitions at the state weightlifting and powerlifting meets. The entry form would read “Gayle Hatch vs. all comers $200.00 per match to the winner”. That was big money for those days, but of course his winnings went to the team to buy equipment. The favorite Coach Hatch story that old timers still talk about today is when the town bully challenged Coach Hatch to a street fight. After being told by so many people that there was one man he couldn’t whip, the bully just couldn’t stand it anymore. This man worked for gamblers and loan sharks and made his living beating up people who were late on their payments. He also liked going into bars just so he could beat up on someone. If you know Coach Hatch at all then you know he doesn’t take any garbage. The time and place was set, and the fight was on. After the massacre, the bully was taken off to the hospital.
Coach is still powerful today even though he is in his sixties. I recently saw him do something that blew my mind. I watched two lifters of good strength trying to move a squat rack that was stuck. The pins completely came out and the medal bar that held the weight slid down and became stuck. Both lifters were pulling and banging on the rack with medal plates, but the bar didn’t move. Coach walked over to them and with one hand grabbed the stuck bar and pulled it back up exactly to its proper position.
Coach Hatch has always been known as a fearless man. He had that reputation as an athlete, and he has it as a man. He received a certification of appreciation from the Baton Rouge Police Chief, Willard Ashford. The certification reads, “In recognition of unusual and outstanding service of the city by assisting the police department in the performance of their duty. Hatch was cited for an act of bravery on December 16, 1974. On that date, he saw a man running at full speed through a parking lot. About two blocks behind, he noticed two men who appeared to be plain clothed detectives giving chase and losing ground. Hatch took off after the man and apprehended him after a few blocks of running. The police then arrived, arrested the man and charged him with two counts of felony. The presentation was shown on television.
John Thrush one of American’s top weightlifting coaches said of coach Hatch that if you get past the technical aspects which he is obviously an expert in, he has a real presence about him, a real rapport with the athletes. Thrush said, “He’s kind of a commanding guy. He reminds me of Patton”. Most of his lifters compare him to John Wayne. 2001 American Open Champion, Buster Bourgeois found a life size poster of “The Duke”, brought it to the training center and pined it on Coach Hatch’s office door. Luckily for Buster Coach found it amusing.
1984 Olympian Tommy Calandro say’s Coach Hatch, a better man you’ll never meet. You’re a better person just being around this guy, and I trained under him for years. He is a great Coach. I didn’t go to the Olympics we went. Without Coach Hatch I’m not there. 1988 and 1992 Olympian, Bret Brian, said without Coach Hatch I would not be an Olympian. He made my dream come true. He has every quality that a coach should have and manages to impart that to the athlete.
I was a member of Coach Hatch’s first team to attend a national meet. The 1974 National Collegiates at Montclair State in New Jersey. This was a shootout between two of America’s greatest lifters, Phil Grippalli and Mark Cameron. The crowd went crazy and Phil edged out Mark to win the 198 pound class. Our team, LSU, placed second to Montclair State. The LSU Team consisted of Lim Ko Hup, Mike Neal, James Stefanski, John Black, Mike Edwards, Charles Heard, Roy Cefalu, Quan Bryce and me, Jimmy Peyton. It never entered my mind at that time that the Gayle Hatch Team would one day win over forty national championships and have representation on four Olympic Teams and still counting. Keep an eye on Matt Bruce for 2008.
Coach Hatch is a member of both the USA Weightlifting Hall of Fame and the USA Strength and Conditioning Coaches Hall of Fame. LSU, Tennessee and Miami have all won BCS National Championships in football. The head strength coaches have all been students of Coach Hatch. LSU and Miami baseball teams have also won national championships with strength coaches who were trained by Coach Hatch. He has helped the careers of many other notable strength coaches in the high school, collegiate and professional ranks. One other note about the 2004 Olympic Games, Coach Hatch who is a member of the American Indian Athletic Hall of Fame donated the uniform he wore at the opening ceremonies in Athens, Greece to the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian in Washington D.C.
Denis Reno sometimes refers to coach Hatch as the “Ghost Coach”. This is because he usually arrives right before his first lifter lifts and leaves soon after his last lifter has lifted. This is not because he is not sociable in fact he is sociable. But years ago he became disenchanted with the political infighting that went on between different factions of the Federation. He felt once the competition was over, he had completed his job. He and his lovely wife Peggy usually go out to dinner and enjoy a quite evening. Speaking of Mrs. Hatch, the team absolutely loves and respects her. In the early years you could see her working at the score table from the local meets to the national and international competitions. Coach and Peggy were college sweethearts. Coach has told me more than once how lucky he is to have her for his wife. “She helped bring out the best in me”, Coach would say.
Coach Hatch is more than a weightlifting coach or strength coach. He is an “All American”. From head to toe, he is loyal to the American Flag to the max. He believes in the right moral tings to live by, and he teaches and expects his lifters to follow his lead. There are no ifs or buts about it. You follow Coach, listen to his wisdom and you will profit in life. He believes right is right and wrong is wrong. He never waivers from the truth. If you do right, he will be loyal to you for life.
The Gayle Hatch Weightlifting Team is one of the greatest weightlifting programs in the history of America, and I am proud to be a part of it.