From basketball star to strongman
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 Hatchs height, athletic ability and freaky strength, I
believe he could have won a world championship. We just didnt 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 didnt flinch, and he didnt 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 didnt 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
couldnt whip, the bully just couldnt 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 doesnt 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 didnt 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 Americans 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, "Hes 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 Hatchs office
door. Luckily for Buster Coach found it amusing.
1984 Olympian Tommy Calandro says Coach Hatch, a better man youll never
meet. Youre a better person just being around this guy, and I trained under him for
years. He is a great Coach. I didnt go to the Olympics we went. Without Coach Hatch
Im 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 Hatchs first team to attend a national meet. The 1974
National Collegiates at Montclair State in New Jersey. This was a shootout between two of
Americas 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.