LSU program has ties to
by CARL DUBOIS
Smiling requires fewer muscles than frowning.
Weightlifting requires abundantly more than both. The easiest lift these days for
"Four years after
"Four years after LSU installed it, LSU is playing for a national championship."
The Tigers (12-1) will play
"They're physically ready," he said of the
Tigers. "I think they're physically superior to
Hatch, 64, taught LSU strength and conditioning coach Tommy Moffitt his system of weightlifting in the late 1980s,
when Moffitt was on staff at
Moffitt left Curtis in 1994 to become assistant strength
"Tommy needed another Hatch man," Hatch said, grinning.
Gayle Hatch, taught LSU strength and conditioning coach Tommy Moffitt, left, his system of weightlifting in the late 1980s.
Veterans of the Hatch system at
By then, Moffitt -- and the Hatch system -- had helped win a Southeastern Conference championship at LSU, where coach Nick Saban convinced Moffitt to ply his trade after Saban was hired before the 2000 season.
"Tommy just missed out on a championship ring at
"It's time for Tommy to get that national championship ring. I feel confident he's going to do it. The way the future looks here, he could receive more than one."
Hatch's system has its roots in Olympic-style weightlifting, but it was molded by association with the first strength program in pro football history, a program that helped the San Diego Chargers win the AFL championship in 1963.
Fifteen years ago, Hatch showed the system to Moffitt, who applied it to what has become a celebrated career as a trainer of college athletes. In 1999, his peers named him College Football Strength and Conditioning Coach of the Year.
Moffitt said he owes a debt of gratitude to Hatch.
"What I've done is taken his theories and methodology for training weightlifters and adapted it for football," Moffitt said. "He taught me the finer points of the weightlifting exercises. He taught me how to teach technique. He taught me how to determine how much weight the person should put on the bar.
"He's been a major influence in the things that I've done. I wouldn't be where I am today had it not been for coach Hatch."
Another Hatch pupil, Mike Robinson, nearly won a national
championship ring at
"This year I thought they'd go all the way,"
Hatch said, lamenting McNeese's first-round playoff loss to
An LSU victory in the Sugar Bowl would add to the résumé of the Hatch system, which has a link to the foundation of LSU's 1958 national title.
How it started
He incorporated the principle into a regimen for football players.
Paul Dietzel, who became LSU's coach in 1955, didn't have a winning season in his first three
years with the Tigers. He saw what
LSU, led by Cannon, won the national championship the next year.
"Dietzel didn't hire
The Chargers took note and later made
Football historians, including Jerry Magee, who began covering the Chargers for the San Diego Union-Tribune in 1961, also link the team's success to the first use of anabolic steroids in pro football.
Magee wrote in Pro Football Weekly in 2002 that he saw
Chargers coach Sid Gillman encouraging players to take "pink pills" with their
meals in training camp. Published reports credit
Hatch said he's heard reports that
"In all the years
Hatch spent the late 1980s fighting the use of steroids
in competitive weightlifting and helped introduce and pass legislation in
"They can walk into my gym at any time and test any of my lifters," Hatch said. "I'm real pleased I got that passed. I feel like that has helped a lot."
Hatch said he's seen too many competitive weightlifters grow bitter and alienate themselves from their coaches because of health problems associated with steroid use, a tactic foisted upon them by their coaches.
He said coaching athletes to more than 50 roster spots on international teams and helping them win more than 40 championships hasn't made him as proud as a gesture by two of his pupils, former U.S. Olympic Team lifters Tommy Calandro and Bret Brian, three years ago.
"They presented me with their Olympic jackets," Hatch said. "You don't see many lifters do something like that for their coach."
The occasion was a banquet honoring Hatch, who was inducted into the USA Olympic Weightlifting Hall of Fame. This year Hatch and his mentor, the late Alvin Roy, were inducted into the USA Strength and Conditioning Coaches Hall of Fame.
Hatch is the only coach in both halls. LSU's annual strength and conditioning award bears
The Hatch System
Hatch grew up near
"I put even more emphasis on the Olympic lifts than
Hatch's system ignores the trendy machines of the high-tech age and the emphasis on bodybuilding techniques embraced by the likes of Charles Atlas and Arnold Schwarzenegger. Hatch combined Olympic lifts of free weights with plyometric and jumping drills to develop explosive strength for football players.
"Pure strength that can't be converted to athletic strength is of no use to an athlete," Hatch said, launching into an example using a former LSU football player. "A delivery man can move a refrigerator 10 yards, but he can't move it as fast as (former LSU defensive lineman) Booger McFarland can move it 10 yards.
"In Olympic-style lifts, you're standing on your feet. That's the way you play football. You're not laying on your back like you would for a bench press."
The Hatch system focuses on overall explosive strength and doesn't target body parts the way bodybuilders sculpt themselves for on-stage posing or the beach.
"In Olympic lifting and in football, your body is working as a single unit," Hatch said. "You don't use your hamstrings on one play and your pecs the next."
Football players do specific leg, hip and back work, but it's part of a system that strengthens those areas for better explosive strength in competition. Hatch said the system also demands -- and exacts -- mental toughness.
Defensive tackle Chad Lavalais, a consensus All-America, said the LSU strength and conditioning program, including an offseason running program that features Saban's infamous series of 110-yard sprints, 26 at a time, is the most demanding physical test he's ever endured.
"I'm not saying it's impossible to do," Lavalais said. "You can do it, but they make it so hard to where the games come easy. There's no game I've played in that's as hard as the 110s that we run in the offseason.
"That's a testament to the coaching staff, the strength coaches. If you go out there with the mindset that you want to get better and try to kill all these sprints and the weight training we do, when it comes time for the game, it's a breeze."
Lavalais said players on other teams say they don't do nearly as much as the Tigers. Then he laughs, like someone with a satisfying secret.
Blueprint for champions
John Curtis was already the premier high school football program in the state and on its way to further dominance in 1988 when coach J.T. Curtis gave Moffitt a list of names of strength coaches. Curtis wanted Moffitt to learn as much as possible and make the school's program better.
Gayle Hatch was one of those names. John Stucky, then the strength coach at
Moffitt used the Hatch system for training football players but also helped Aaron Ausmus rise from the ranks of the virtual unknown to NCAA indoor champion in the shot put in 1997.
When Moffitt left
"If you were to take what
According to the BCS standings, they are four of the top nine teams in the nation this season. LSU is No. 2, one spot ahead of USC.
The Hatch system is part of the blueprint for another champion LSU fans are aware of: running back Jay Lucas of Redemptorist, who has helped the Wolves to two state football titles and a state basketball title in the last 13 months. Lucas could become another Hatch man in purple and gold.
LSU defensive end Marcus Spears said the team's durability owes a lot to what the Tigers call their Fourth Quarter program, the offseason conditioning work.
"This year we didn't have that many guys get injured, and that's a tribute to the workouts," Spears said. "Guys are in shape and able to play for 60 minutes. That's where we get that motto."
Offensive tackle Rodney Reed said the team chemistry -- which Saban said is the best he's seen in 30 years of coaching -- was built in large part during the offseason running program and in the weight room.
"When you struggle with something that's so hard," Reed said, "and you have to work with each other and help each other out to get through some of it, it really builds team unity, and that's something coach Moffitt does a good job of."
Reed said one of the best examples of strength and effort making something happen came near the end of LSU's 17-14 victory over Ole Miss, when Rebels quarterback Eli Manning faced a fourth-and-long situation. Lavalais surged at the snap, sending Ole Miss guard Doug Buckles back on his heels.
Buckles stepped on Manning's foot, tripping him and effectively clinching an LSU victory that kept Ole Miss from winning the SEC Western Division championship over the Tigers.
The play by Lavalais was one of those explosive moments Hatch describes, a player coming out of his stance with swiftness and power to make something happen on his feet, just as in an Olympic-style lift.
It might never be celebrated on
Hatch smiled at the thought.
"It's like it's coming full circle," he said.